Last month, journalist Johann Hari wrote an article for The Nation called “How to Build a Progressive Tea Party” in which he detailed the sudden and rapid evolution of UK Uncut, a British movement formed to curb corporate tax dodging. At the time, Hari’s wish was for the cause to cross the pond and take root in America.
It took about a month for the dream to become a reality. A young man named Carl Gibson from Mississippi read Hari’s article and immediately felt inspired to launch US Uncut. The reasoning behind his motivation was simple.
“I have one dollar in my wallet. That’s more than the combined income tax liability of GE, ExxonMobil, Citibank and the Bank of America. That means somebody is gaming the system,” says Gibson.
Gibson set up a website, and almost overnight franchises sprung up across the country, and a national day of action was declared for protests at Bank of America. I attended one such US Uncut protest in New York City.
The group’s ascension is certainly remarkable. Every time I revisit US Uncut’s website, there are more franchise marks on the homepage’s map, and my inbox is filled with testimonies and video footage of various US Uncut excursions. The latest comes courtesy of a group of Boston organizers who crashed Bank of America’s first Investor Conference in three years.
Protesters staged sit-ins at their local BoAs and held “educational seminars” in which they advised average citizens on how to cheat on their taxes like giant corporations.
But despite the swift expansion of US Uncut’s ranks, the group remains largely a mystery to the general public, perhaps because the media have thus far done a poor job of spotlighting the populist movement.
So in the spirit of edification, here is a brief FAQ about US Uncut.
Q: What is US Uncut?
A: US Uncut is an anti–tax dodging movement. According to the group, they are “about taking action against unnecessary and unfair cuts to public services across the US.” They believe the country isn’t broke, but rather the elite and wealthy are permitted to play by a different set of rules that permits them to shelter their revenue in foreign tax havens and skirt other taxes.
Q: Why all the Bank of America hate?
A: In 2009, Bank of America didn’t pay a single cent in federal income taxes. Other corporate offenders include Citigroup, Boeing, Exxon, Wells Fargo and General Electric. In fact, all kinds of massively wealthy corporations pay very little, or no, taxes at all. Additionally, Bank of America received $20 billion in TARP cash AKA taxpayer money, which is why US Uncut views BoA’s relationship with citizens as being parasitic. The giant bank sucks taxpayers dry, but then refuses to contribute back to the society that facilitated its lavish profits.
Q: Doesn't the United States have a very high corporate tax rate already?
A: Conservatives often cite the fact that America's corporate tax rate is 35 percent, making it higher than the average of other industrial countries. However, this doesn't take into account tax-evading practices. The S&P 500 is home to 115 companies that received more in credits than they pay out.
Q: Is there a US Uncut chapter by me?
A: Find out at the official website: http://www.usuncut.org/
Q: Who is the leader?
A: Though Carl Gibson founded US Uncut, the structure of the group is similar to the hacking group Anonymous in that there isn’t clear-cut leadership. Each branch of US Uncut does its own thing, though they adopt similar themes (targets, slogans, signs, etc.)
Q: What do they hope to accomplish?
A: Gibson told In These Times, "We want to reframe the national debate about how to deal with this recession: Instead of saying 'what can we cut from the budget because we can't possibly raise taxes on anyone,' why don't we make the two-thirds of corporations that don't pay any income taxes pay their fair share? If we did, the U.S. Treasury would recoup $100 billion a year, a trillion dollars in a decade."
Q: Is this, in any way, related to circumcision?