Thousands of young voters rallied at the White House this Tax Day to demand President Obama stand up to Big Polluters and make them pay their fair share. During the day of action, a flash mob, led by US Uncut’s Carl Gibson, successfully shut down a BP gas station in response to the company’s $9.9 billion tax credit from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which nearly matches the EPA’s entire annual operating budget.
Polluters marched in the streets, chanting, “Make polluters pay, not the EPA.”
Author Nicholas Shaxson, whom I previously interviewed for this blog, also participated in some guerrilla activism with US Uncut at a Verizon store in the District. Verizon is a multibillion-dollar corporation that pays lower tax rates than you do, and the company is able to do this by creatively redirecting its profits to their foreign wireless partner, and favorite target of the UK Uncut movement, Vodafone.
US Uncut snuck Shaxson, who is on the tail end of his book tour, into a Verizon store and set up a table onto which they dumped copies of his book, Treasure Island, which details the nefarious tax dodging habits of the world’s elites and corporations. Shaxson started signing away.
Shaxson writes that he was struck by how forcefully the organizers stressed peaceful protest.
“These people are not your enemy” they kept saying, talking about the store employees, and then the police, who were bound to show up. “We are fighting to protect their (police) salaries too.”
I can add that this has also been my experience covering the NYC chapter of US Uncut. Nonviolence is always stressed by organizers at the top of each protest, and I’ve witnessed activists speaking directly to police officers to explain US Uncut is in the streets to fight for their salaries.
Shaxson came away from the experience feeling inspired. “I am not an activist or street protester by temperament or experience,” he writes, “and I would never have the, well, the balls, to stand up and shout in such surroundings. Hats off to them.”
The larger protest at the White House featured speakers such as AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, Cherri Foytlin of Gulf Change, and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben. The protest was a marriage of the environmental movement that demands the president and Congress stand up to Big Polluters and protect the Clean Air Act, and the anti–corporate tax-dodging movement that wants BP to pay its fair share to the society that helped facilitate its lavish profits.
Huge oil companies like BP and Exxon pay lobbyists millions of dollars to scare lawmakers into believing that ending their subsidies will tank the American economy. For example, BP North America donated at least $4.8 million in corporate contributions in the past seven years to political groups, partisan organizations and campaigns engaged in federal and state elections, the Washington Post reports.
Big oil always claims that its subsidies are for job creation and drilling costs, but there are actually nine different subsidies in the tax codes that the oil companies enjoy. Getting rid of those subsidies would save the US $45 billion over ten years.
For contrast, consider that the recent federal budget deal resulted in a $500 million cut to the Women, Infants and Children Program. WIC is one of many programs that could be fully funded simply by tweaking Big Oil subsidies.