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While Corporate Tax Cheats are Bankrupting the country, Artists fight back!

April 15, 2011

I pay my taxes every year, although reluctantly, because I know that 20% of my tax dollars go to funding wars. But it enrages me when large American companies, who make billions off the backs of working people, don’t pay their fair share.
General Electric, Bank of America, Verizon and Citi pay ZERO in taxes.
Thanks to loopholes in our government, these corporate tax cheats are skipping out on paying 21.7 billion dollars. Bank of America holds over $2.2 trillion in assets, yet pays less in taxes that the average American household. Citi, the largest recipient in federal bail-out funds, hasn’t paid taxes in the last four years. Thanks to this handy graphic by the folks at US Uncut, (which you should share widely) I was able to identify these tax cheats and have decided to Move my Money OUT of Bank of America.

One of the companies with the most outrageous behavior is General Electric, GE. The New York Times reported in March 2011:
General Electric, the nation’s largest corporation… reported worldwide profits of $14.2 billion, and said $5.1 billion of the total came from its operations in the United States. Its American tax bill? None. In fact, G.E. claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion… The company has been cutting the percentage of its American profits paid to the IRS for years, resulting in a far lower rate than at most multinational companies… based on an aggressive strategy that mixes fierce lobbying for tax breaks and innovative accounting that enables it to concentrate its profits offshore. G.E.’s giant tax department… includes former officials not just from the Treasury, but also from the I.R.S. and virtually all the tax-writing committees in Congress.
But GE didn’t get away without artists and organizers responding and embarassing the hell out of them!
US Uncut together with the Yes Men, posted a fake GE press release this past Wednesday, announcing that GE would return their illegitimate (but legal) $3.2 billion tax refund. Several major media outlets, including USA Today, ran the story as true. (Here is a link to the original USA Today story; here is the first article debunking the release.) Check out the video.

“Obviously, GE can’t possibly be expected to do the right thing voluntarily; their stock would keep plunging,” noted US Uncut spokesperson Carl Gibson. “That’s why we must change the law.”
“GE’s tax avoidance is unpatriotic, it’s undemocratic, it’s unfair,” added Andrew Boyd, a US Uncut spokesperson. “It might be legal, but that’s only because GE has used its money and lobbying influence to buy the loopholes they’re now taking advantage of.”
I was tremendously inspired by this creative intervention and reaffirmed to myself that one of my most important roles as an artist today is to call out the exploitative and shameless theft we are witnessing – the theft of the people in this country, who are bailing out the big bank rollers while paying more and more in taxes, losing their homes, and their jobs. It was not working class people who got us into this economic mess, it was deregulation, globalization, “free-trade”, the pro-corporate manipulation of our government, and the sheer greed of corporations like GE, Bank of America, Verizon, and Citi. They are only the worst of an entire conglomerate of cheats. Get informed and participate in creative interventions.
If you are angry, there is something you can do. Move your money out of Bank of America, Citi, and the big banks. The big banks on Wall Street gambled with our money, then demanded a bailout of $700 billion. If the government wont step in and break them up, then we must move our money ourselves. Learn more about moving your money here.


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