Chicago activists tell Senator Kirk: Don't balance the budget on the back of the poor!

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The government shutdown was averted. But we still don't know what exactly has been cut from the federal budget, the $38 billion that finally led to a compromise.

Activists from 10 Chicago organizations aren't waiting to find out. They're standing up to let U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk know they don't want cuts to human services. Especially not while big corporations, like Bank of America and the General Electric Co., go without paying taxes at all.

This afternoon, they'll stand on the street with one of those giant checks written out for the amount of $3.8 billion dollars--the amount they say Bank of America should have paid this year in taxes.

The numbers come from a group called US Uncut--inspired by a similar movement in Britain. The idea behind US Uncut is that there shouldn't be any cuts to social services or programs that help everyday Americans until big corporations pay the taxes the group says they owe.

I could explain all their numbers and calculations, but honestly, they created this graphic that does it much better than I could:

Corporate Tax Cheats Are Bankrupting America infographic

Source: US Uncut--No Cuts Until Corporate Tax Cheats Pay Up!

Len Burman, who used to work for the U.S. Department of Treasury and now is a scholar at the Tax Policy Center agrees.

"In a rational system, a corporation's tax department would be there to
make sure a company complied with the law," Burman said. "But in our system, there are corporations that view their tax
departments as a profit center, and the effects on public policy can be
negative."

But others disagree. John Samuels, another former Treasury official, runs G.E.'s tax department.

"We believe that winning in markets outside the United States increases
U.S. exports and jobs," Samuels said. "If U.S.
companies aren't competitive outside of their home market, it will mean
fewer, not more, jobs in the United States, as the business will go to a
non-U.S. competitor."

But The New York Times touts statistics that bring that reasoning into question.

Since 2002, the company has eliminated a fifth of its work force in the
United States while increasing overseas employment. In that time, G.E.'s
accumulated offshore profits have risen to $92 billion from $15
billion.

So which is it? Are American social service programs--programs that heat poor families homes in winter, provide health care, job training and housing to working families--really too bloated? If corporations paid their fair share, could we recoup the cost and then some?

Or would higher corporate taxes just mean more jobs leave the U.S., leaving families with jobs at those companies unemployed?

Tell us your perspective. Do we need to cut back? Or tell corporations to pay up?

Photo credit: US Uncut

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