US Uncut is born
Carl Gibson is the founder of CIVIL USA – the first of what we hope will be many US Uncut groups. Visit the CIVIL USA website, and follow the campaign on twitter at @civilusa.
Walking away from the Mississippi State Capitol yesterday, I saw three older white folks getting out of their cars. They looked like they were on a mission.
“Hey y’all,” I said, making friendly talk like we do in the South. “Who y’all with?”
A bigger man chuckled. “We’re with the old folks committee.”
“You mean the Mississippi Tea Party?” I asked. We all laughed.
It was funny because it was true; the tea virus has seeped into the halls of the state legislature this year. You can always tell by looking for the all-white, 60-something crowd of stern-faced men and women clad in red, white and blue clothing.
I’ve suffered through a local Tea Party gathering out of morbid curiosity. It was 80 or so old folks planning their schedules around the upcoming Glenn Beck 9/12 rally in Washington, interspersed with venom against the “liberal” mainstream media. There was also a speaker who said that the United States wasn’t a union, but a Confederacy of states. He added that The South was the only group of states to properly understand that concept. Other than myself at age 23, the youngest person in the room was in their fifties.
Young people in Mississippi have every reason to get active in politics. We have the nation’s lowest per capita income, lowest college graduation rate, the most poorly-ranked schools and the highest rates of obesity, diabetes, child poverty and reported incidences of domestic violence. We’re ranked 51st out of 50 states plus Washington, D.C. in almost every social welfare category.
And for reasons unknown, our leaders continue to get re-elected by fighting to resist the inevitable progress of social change at every turn. Young people busy working 2 or 3 jobs to scrape together $450 a month for rent don’t really have the energy or time for civil disobedience.
Then my dad emailed me an article about UK Uncut from The Nation. I was riveted. The story of British citizens refusing to let Vodaphone earn income until Vodaphone paid income taxes rang true. And after reading the ten-step guide to starting US Uncut, I got busy.
I discovered that two-thirds of US corporations don’t pay income taxes. I learned the $3 in my wallet was more than the income tax liability of multi-billionaire Fortune 500 headliners like GE, ExxonMobil, Bank of America and Citibank combined.
These are the very same companies to whom we gave hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars, ruined the economy and rewarded themselves with performance bonuses that could have solved every state’s budget crisis and created millions of jobs.
At the same time, my state and others across the US are preparing to fire hundreds of thousands of hard-working state employees due to drastic budget cuts (pdf). Politicians say these cuts are necessary to meet the requirements of balancing the state budget every year, yet they prefer to fire public school teachers and police officers instead of confront the most egregious tax cheats.
If America’s corporate tax dodgers paid taxes like everyone else, Mississippi could theoretically recoup up to $432 million per year (pdf). The US would recoup up to $100 billion a year, or $1 trillion every decade. If Congress closed corporate tax loopholes and made offshore tax havens illegal, tax dodgers would provide our treasury with all of the necessary expenses to fund US infrastructure and pay off our debt by 2016.
When you approach young people and inform them of gross economic injustices, they light up. We’re so hungry for a movement like US Uncut to begin. Most of us are victims of massive layoffs or budget cuts. We’re all struggling and barely holding on to our last strings of financial stability before our corporate owners take those too. When we hear that working people may suddenly have a voice in how leaders shape policy, we get fired up.
I’ve started an organization called CIVIL USA- Citizens In the Voluntary Insistence of Laws. We, the taxpaying citizens of this nation, are volunteering our time to insist that our corporate citizens follow the law. The law, in this case, being the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
On February 26th, myself and about a dozen others are forming a human chain in front of the entrance of a local Bank of America branch. We’re going to close the branch and refuse them the opportunity to earn income until Bank of America pays income taxes like everyone else.
I’m letting my friends in the local media know about the protest so they can be there before we’re arrested. I’m organizing this by facebook, twitter and word of mouth. I’m still looking for attorneys friendly to the cause willing to represent us pro bono if Bank of America decides to press charges. I’m also looking for a bail bondsman to help get our bail lowered to an affordable rate. If we’re arrested for trespassing, that means a misdemeanor on our record and a potentially hefty fine.
We’ll likely need financial support so we can keep the protests frequent and well-attended. I’m going about the business of registering with the IRS as a 501(c)(4) organization so I can take donations through a paypal account. I’ve hosted my first interest meeting and told a dozen old/young, white/black gay/straight Jacksonians about what we plan to do.
I’m continually inspired by widespread, spontaneous demonstrations in favor of democracy in Tunisia, Egypt, Ireland, Greece and especially by UK Uncut. I’m attempting to organize a US Uncut protest day on February 26th with the help of friends in other states. I’ve heard on Twitter of protests being organized in Portland, Maine and in New York on the same day.
US Uncut will confront the banks on the same day as the second of the two UK Uncut bank protests – the 19th and 26th of February. February is the month they start to pay attention to us.
Before one more teacher is fired, before one more salary is frozen, let’s stand together and demand the richest among us play by the rules like everyone else and pay up.
Hi there, constantly i used to check web site posts here in the early hours in the daylight, because
i enjoy to gain knowledge of more and more.
Hey there! I know this is somewhat off topic
but I was wondering if you knew where I could locate a captcha
plugin for my comment form? I’m using the same blog platform
as yours and I’m having trouble finding one? Thanks
Corporate greed is a good place to start.
10s of millions of Americans know of your message but have not acted. Bring them out of their homes and on to the streets to work or even fight, if necessary, for what is rightfully theirs!
Do not be sidetracked by corporate defenders and the lies and deceptions they will spread. You are up against a monstrous dragon. Be fearless!
My only criticism is the movement does not go far enough; not stating that corporations and special interest groups have seized your government and are responsible for many evils such as unemployment, sending the best jobs to China, sucking the American worker dry, the real estate catastrophe and many others.
Its all been thought out; the solutions are known; you need only to awaken the people and metaphorically “march on Washington”.
The Glass-Steagal Act can stop the Wall Street rip off. Protective tariffs will bring back the corporations from China and other slave labor places that we can’t compete with, and along with them will come the good jobs. This is only the beginning…
A great nation and moreover Earth needs you save her from the tyranny of the corporations.
POWER TO THE PEOPLE!!!
Hurrah, hope for the world! Debout, vos damnés de la terre…
FusionHayek. CEOs have a profit/loss standard to adhere to. They can get away with cronyism for awhile, but when the business starts losing money they’re out of a job. No such constraint exists for politicians – when a program is losing money, it gets a higher budget. That is why allowing the government to decide where “investment” occurs is a bad idea.
Mercury. In your diatribe of personal attacks and comments about my “ignorance” you still managed to not address the two points I brought up in the last comment – taxes are bad for the economy, and the government is bad at allocating money productively. Therefore, I don’t feel obligated to address the majority of what you said, because you’ve conceded that the end result of US Uncut will be counter-productive.
You’re right in one aspect: in simplified econ models, business hiring is determined by supply and demand. When you introduce government, however, it becomes more complicated. When a business pays more taxes on goods sold, the marginal revenue product from each laborer goes does down, and the amount of labor demanded falls; a.k.a. more unemployment. Your anecdotal experience aside, I don’t think my claim here is very controversial.
What are corporations waiting for to invest? A predictable legal environment. With large segments of the population operating on fallacies about how corporate profits are built off exploiting the worker and a leftist president in power, making big profits invites a regulatory crack-down if the winds of public opinion shift the wrong way. Add in uncertainty about future actions by the Fed and when the interest rate may rise, and there are many more factors in play than just tax breaks.
My personal background really doesn’t matter for the argument we’re having here, but for the record, I get no money from my parents to pay for grad school, and I’m not borrowing anything from the government. I can acknowledge my privilege in having the time to think about and study these issues… Sometimes a little abstraction is valuable.
While I respect your initiative as a small business owner, I think you should also have a bit more appreciation for the free market system that makes it possible for ordinary people to start and operate a business — it’s easy to take for granted, but there are many other parts of the world where government overreach has made that impossible for most people. I don’t understand why you’d try to move the US toward that statist outcome as well.
I was just about to tell @Unfashenomic that his comments reeked, but @Mercury beat me to the punch, and in a far more intelligent manner (thanks @Mercury). For those who don’t grok the economic facts (e.g. tax cuts don’t spur hiring), just remind the @Unfashenomics of the world that BofA/Exxon/etc rely on and use (and often abuse) the Commons – roads, street lights, police, fire engines, etc – just as often as the people do. Whether you agree that income/profits should be taxed or not, taxing on their use of infrastructure services is irrefutable. It’s a good starting point for dialog.
I strongly support what you are doing. It’s great to see a challenge to the status quo: that most of the capital is in the hands of a very few, that large corporations and the guys who run them make gobs of money while others starve and are evicted. There is no reason why poverty, hunger, homelessness and lack of health care should exist in a country as wealthy as ours.
There’s a documentary which says that American workers do not have to pay income tax, as according to the 16th ammendment, income tax is payable only on un-earned income and profits. Wages count as ‘property’ and so are not taxed. There have been sucesses in the courts. Ignore the title and be open minded on this. It provides a startling realisation. Watch it at:
Let’s clear a few things up:
1. The 16th amendment states “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived”.
2. The courts have determined that “from whatever source dervied” means exactly that, so wages are taxed. See, for example, Bowers v. Kerbaugh-Empire Co., 271 U.S. 170 (1926) and Commissioner v. Glenshaw Glass Co., 348 U.S. 426 (1955).
3. The 16th amendment was passed to levy a tax on corporations, they should not be exempt. Taft had proposed a 2% tax on corporations “Upon the privilege of doing business as an artificial entity and of freedom from a general partnership liability enjoyed by those who own the stock.”
Income tax on corporation and individuals is constitutional, has been around for about a century and is the price you pay to live in a civilised and prosperous country. Get over it and pay your fair share.
Thank you Carl for starting this movement in the US. The US has become the a country that’s for and by the corporations and bankers. We’ve spent hundreds of billions to bail them out of their own mess (not counting billions more in annual subsidies), and now that we have gone broke doing so, lets cut spending to those who need it the most. Its absurd!
And to you Sir Unfashenomic, at first I thought you must be from some right wing hack think tank/propaganda machine. Evidently you are working on a phd in econ. You should be so lucky you should really be thanking your lucky stars that your parents are paying for your tuition for your expert knowledge in economics. How do I know you are raised with a silver spoon? Well because you certainly have never come across anyone who has to work for anything to have the believes that you have.
If your parents aren’t paying for your tuition, well then you must be borrowing money that your GOVERNMENT is providing in one way or another. You obviously are a libertarian/small government/trickle down/no regulation type. Won’t have time to debunk your believes.
Let me do poke some holes in your statements.
1. corporations are not people. you are right they are not, but your corporate hired supreme court justices recently ruled that they are. Giving them unlimited reach in influencing elections.
2. your claim that corporations may be taxed twice is flat out stupid. especially for an econ phd. profit is profit. it means after expenses…ah such as salaries. and expenses such as salaries are…..yes, tax deductible…meaning you rightly do not pay taxes on that. your ignorance of having spent a single day in the real working world can be very much forgiven, but please then spare us of your expert blogging analysis of how the economy works.
and if corporations choose to raise the price of goods even while making good profit, well the consumer don’t have to buy it. they don’t get to “pass on” the higher costs just because they choose to be greedy. that’s how a free market, which i am sure you are a proponent of, works…econ phd sir!
you are correct in asserting that corporations need to answer to their shareholders. that is why they are on a never ending path to increase revenue year after year. well the only way to do that is to cut cost by squeezing production and to increase sales volume buy increasing existing market or by finding new markets. Well new markets are rapidly emerging in asia, hence the record profits by corporations amids the worst down turn in US economy…as a result, squeeze us productivity even more…get more with a leaner work force. is that what you meant by the population gains with a healthy corporation? oh you are so wise!
4. lastly, in your haste to your econ phd, you must have forgotten the most basic of economics. have you heard of supply and demand? business hiring and investment is not driven by tax cuts, it’s by demand. you contradict your own argument. you sir claim that corporations are hanging on to large cash reserves…waiting for the right opportunity. isn’t the existing tax holiday the very opportunity that you claimed corporations need in order to have money for investments? then what are they really waiting for…oh enlighten us you econ phd.
let me tell you what the real word of economics is all about. I am a small business owner. forget about tax breaks. the US government can give me a billion dollars tomorrow and i will not go out and spend a penny of it on more staff or more equipment…because i don’t have demand to keep me at my full level of production even at my current level of employment. the fact of the matter is, with the exception of the few percent at the top, the dwindling middle class is rapidly losing the ability to spend. it’s supply and demand that drives investment, not some magical tickle down fairy.
So mr/ms unfashenomic. please stick to your books and “theroy” and shut the hell up.
Peace of advice. Your posts are too long. No one is reading them.
What makes you think that CEOS are in a better position to spend other people’s money than politicians? Ever heard of the separation between management and ownership? Ever heard of investor activism? Cronyism among CEOs IS a serious problem. It’s much easier to get rid of ineffective politicians than clicks of crony CEOs.
Unfashenomic, do some reading so that you better understand what us uncut is all about.
“No one’s asking companies to pay taxes on their net income, just their profit.”
Then maybe someone should edit the post at the top, which pretty clear about how corporations need to pay income tax. Even if they are just taxed on “profits” that is still coming out of someone’s pocket. Corporations are a legal entity made up of multiple people, so taking money from a corporation means taking money from those people. This is basic logic, which you obfuscate by pretending that corporations are entities in themselves.
“These companies use the police and military to protect their assets…”
They also hire thousands of workers in multiple countries, and purchase services from many smaller businesses. Society as a whole benefits from profitable companies.
Two issues that no one has addressed, which defeat the entire basis for your “movement”:
1) Higher taxes cause businesses to cut costs or raise prices. Both are bad for ordinary people, who lose jobs or pay more for basic commodities. If you raise taxes, it will not be CEO salaries getting cut — head executives have lots of job opportunities and will take their services elsewhere if benefits go down. It’s the low-level workers and customers who will suffer. That’s just reality, like it or not.
2) The government is bad at investing. Chances are, higher taxes will be spent on pork-barrel projects or buying another cruise missile. Those create a one-shot gain for the economy, but those funds privately invested (into factories, better service, more workers, or whatever else companies might decide) will reap far greater payoffs, because private interests will lead them to invest in the most profitable – and correspondingly, most socially beneficial – areas. EVEN IF the taxes were spent to retain public sector workers, that would still be a poor use of funds – see my post above on how the public sector has had it too easy for far too long.
If you’re concerned about the decline in public services donate your OWN money, or do some research and persuade government agencies to improve their efficiency. We’ve been throwing money at them for years and gotten inadequate results. Taking money from productive sectors and transferring it to unproductive ones has NEVER succeeded in creating growth. Whatever rhetorical flourish you may put on “US Uncut” it’s still a terrible idea.
Stop lying about double counting. No one’s asking companies to pay taxes on their net income, just their profit. But companies like Exon Mobil pay no tax and have enormous profit. That’s what we’re going after. These companies use the police and military to protect their assets, they use our transportation and communications infrastructure to move their goods, and they use our courts to settle their disputes. They reap the benefits of society but refuse to pay, and then demand we sacrifice so they can practice business as usual.
If business leaders are waiting to invest until the time is right, that doesn’t strike me as a “problem.” Rather, it’s a survival strategy in a time of political uncertainty – it doesn’t make sense to invest when some government policy may second-guess you and make that investment worthless.
What makes you think that political authorities, spending other people’s money, have a better idea about where that money should go than the people who earned it? If the government were to “tax and spend” the money the corporations are holding, it might boost the economy – in the short-term. However, otherwise that money would be invested and spent by private parties, and for wiser purposes than government bureaucrats can come up with. Big government cannot fuel an economy, it can only redistribute what is already there (while taking some for itself at the same time). Expecting government spending to create real economic growth is a logical contradiction, because at the most basic level it is still robbing Peter to pay Paul.
You are indeed asking for double counting – small and medium companies have to deal with that now, and you want to make it universal. The correct solution is to lower taxes on those smaller companies, not increase them for the larger ones.
I have little sympathy for federal/state/municipal employees who have benefited from competitive pay, great pensions plus fringe benefits, and unparalleled job security while the private sector has suffered. In hard times, government should tighten its own belt, rather than demand more money from companies producing goods that people actually want. If there were sufficient demand for libraries, private companies would provide them, or people will find substitutes (Google Books, perhaps?). Public schools are in dismal conditions, even ones with extremely high funding (see Washington DC). Any private CEO who ran such a shoddy operation would have been out on the street years ago, but in government the solution is always “more money!” It’s time for public services to learn how to do more with less, and they never will as long as the taxpayer-funded feeding trough remains full.
Giving unproductive members of society more cash can never solve the real issue. It’s not about just the “super-rich” because any tax impacts all of society. The harder it becomes to earn wealth domestically, the more companies will take their business abroad to other places. Your proposal is another move toward killing the goose that lays golden eggs.
What you are doing makes no sense whatsoever. Of course corporations don’t pay income tax – they. are. not. people! When Bank of America (or pick any other hated corporation) takes in revenue, it doesn’t just sit in a vault. That money goes to employees, shareholders, and providers of capital equipment — and all THOSE people pay income taxes on the money.
What you seem to want is double-counting income from corporations, where it is taxed as revenue and then taxed again when the money is distributed to workers/investors. This is absolutely the wrong path to take with an already-struggling economy. Facing that new tax cost, to stay in business companies have two choices: (a) increase the price of their products, hurting consumers or (b) fire some of their workers to save money. Which of those seems like a good thing to you?
Pulling in more tax revenues won’t fix the problem of government waste and cronyism, just exacerbate it. Taxing “corporate income” just gives more private money for the politicians to waste. It’s still coming out of real people’s pockets, one way or another.
Please rethink your goals before you do additional harm to the economy.
Actually one of the major problems with our economies right now is that too much money is sitting in corporate bank accounts. I don’t hav ethe figures to hand for the US, but in the UK the corporate surplus (profits minus reinvestment) is at a record high. As of the last data available there was over £650 billion being held by non-financial corporations as cash and deposits. That’s money that could be going to pay employees and invest in new businesses but isn’t. If the government were to tax and spend some of that money we would boost the economy. (see this excellent article for more details – http://www.redpepper.org.uk/there-is-an-alternative-unlock-the-surplus/ )
Of course, that’s only one point to make here, anyway. We’re not asking for double counting, we’re asking for the same counting for the largest corporations as for small and medium companies. Those companies (the small ones) do pay tax on their profits (i.e. after wages and other operating costs) but the largest (and wealthiest) companies in the US and UK don’t pay nearly the same share.
And while politicians may waste some money, I don’t think schools and libraries and fire services and police etc. etc. are a waste. I think they are essential to a healthy functioning society and cutting them so that the super rich don’t have to pay the same as the rest of us will do irreperable harm to both our society and our long term economic interests.
I’d like to address a bevy of concerns about corporate dominance of government when we get to that point. If this movement becomes big enough, I’d like to see if we can amass several thousand to march on Washington at a date TBD and demand that offshore tax havens be made illegal and that Citizens United vs. FEC be deemed unconsitutional.
Think about it- our Constitution states that no person may own another person. Santa Clara County vs. Union Pacific Railroad (SCOTUS, 1886) defines corporations as people. If a corporation is a person and owns other corporations, that’s a direct violation of the anti-slavery amendment in the Constitution. Citizens United has to be struck down under this precedent.
About the best valentine a girl could hope for.
Although I can’t begin to afford an arrest, I’ll do what I can.
Can the big goal at the end of the day be fighting for a change of the corporate personhood status? Oh, and real campaign finance reform would be nice too.
All the best wishes from a former US resident now residing in the UK. For too long, rational voices have remained unheard in politics. While people protest the imaginary dangers of providing health care for everyone or gay marriage, politicians on both sides of the isles are helping themselves and their corporate buddies to some more piles of money. Meanwhile, working America (same here in Europe) can bail out the politicians’ corporate buddies when they F’up, by driving us deeper in dept, with less job security and less money for important government programmes.
I hope that, like in the UK, your protests can temporarily unite people of different political persuasions, from staunch Marxists to true conservatives and everything in between, to first stop this injustice… afterwards we can have a rational, political discourse to take our nations into new, prosperous and just directions.
Again, I wish you all the best!
Good luck. This movement has to become global if it is to become successful.