It seems like every week some serious publication puts out a new graph or pie chart that shows how the class divide is widening in America; and while citizens suffer under the crushing weight of austerity, the über-rich abscond with taxpayer-funded subsidies. Ordinary citizens are examining corporations and the upper-one-percenters with a big magnifying glass, and what they’re seeing isn’t pretty, especially when contrasted with demands that citizens surrender some of their most sacred social programs.
Simply put, they are extremely pissed off. One of the newest vehicles for their outrage is US Uncut, a group that arose specifically to protest this two-tier system that demands endless sacrifice from the majority as it facilitates corporate theft.
Early this year, British journalist Johann Hari wrote a Nation article, “The UK’s Left-Wing Tea Party” [February 11], in which he detailed the sudden and impressive emergence of UK Uncut, a British movement formed to curb corporate tax dodging. Hari’s wish was for the cause to cross the pond and take root in America.
It took only about a month for that to happen. A young man named Carl Gibson from Mississippi read Hari’s article and immediately felt inspired to launch US Uncut. Gibson set up a website, and almost overnight franchises sprang up across the country.
The anti–corporate-tax-dodging movement has seen its ranks expand dramatically in the past few months. In March more than forty chapters participated in a US Uncut day of action. Almost a month later, on Tax Day, more than 100 chapters protested corporate tax dodging. In Washington, DC, Gibson led a flash mob occupation of a BP gas station that shut it down. US Uncut organized that event in conjunction with the environmental group Power Shift in response to BP’s $13 billion tax credit from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which surpasses the Environmental Protection Agency’s entire annual operating budget.
US Uncut’s impressive growth is thanks in large part to the nationwide budget-cut backlash. The group believes that instead of asking ordinary people to sacrifice, the government should first demand that corporations pay their fair share in taxes and put an end to tax havens, which rob the United States of $100 billion every year.
US Uncut’s main targets include Verizon, Bank of America, FedEx, General Electric and BP. Verizon made nearly $12 billion in pretax US earnings last year but has paid no federal income taxes for the past two years. However, the company did spend more than $34 million on lobbying during that time.
Interestingly, Verizon is able to avoid paying its taxes by creatively redirecting profits to its foreign wireless partner, Vodafone, a longtime target of UK Uncut because of its equally unscrupulous tax-dodging practices. Vodafone claims that a large portion of its revenue should not be subject to British taxation because the company reroutes the cash through Luxembourg, a haven with a tax rate of less than 10 percent. Vodafone doubled its profits in 2010 by using this funneling scheme, which robbed British taxpayers of billions of pounds that could have gone toward funding communities.
Another target of US Uncut is GE, America’s largest firm, which hasn’t paid a nickel in federal income taxes this year—and will actually receive a $3.2 billion tax credit. Meanwhile, Bank of America paid nothing in federal taxes last year and got nearly $1 billion from taxpayers—not counting the $45 billion it received during the bailout.