WASHINGTON – Corporate tax evasion has evolved into a virtual art form. Two-thirds of US corporations didn't pay so much as a dime in taxes between 1998 and 2005, exploiting a multitude of loopholes, according to a Congressional report.
Targeting corporations who evade taxes turned out to be quite the anti-austerity rallying cry in England, where a new prime minister is pushing painful cuts for working people.
Now, that same rallying cry is going out across the United States, where the anti-spending tea party movement has in recent years overshadowed the voices of those who want government to be more active on behalf of the middle class.
A new non-partisan group called US Uncut -- named after UK Uncut -- aims in part to challenge the tea party's push for lower corporate taxes. They instead want Congress stop letting wealthy corporations dodge their taxes.
"This is an issue that has been ignored for way too long," Carl Gibson, a US Uncut spokesman, told Raw Story. "Congress has been chipping away and chipping away at corporate responsibility to pay taxes."
"And now it's gotten to the point where the middle class is being sacrificed on the altar of deficit reduction, while big corporations are getting away with not paying any taxes at all."
The website Wall St. Cheat Sheet found that corporations routinely claim hundreds of millions in tax deductions. In 2009, Bank of America qualified for a $1.9 billion tax benefit, and General Electric a $1.1 billion write-off.
US Uncut boasts "no central leadership," and appears to be as organic as grassroots movements get. Gibson, 23, of Jacksonville, Mississippi, founded the first chapter. He works a few part-time jobs and confesses to having no prior experience in organizing or in politics. He was inspired by the vibrancy of UK Uncut, and spurred into action after reading an article in The Nation magazine about replicating such a movement in the US.
Is US Uncut a "liberal" or "progressive" movement? "Absolutely not," Gibson said. "This is nonpartisan. We don't endorse any specific political ideology or candidate or party."
The movement will hold its first day of organizing on Saturday, February 26, with demonstrations mainly outside banks in 50 cities. It's expecting crowds in the dozens in the smaller cities and hundreds in some bigger cities.
"This is our first national day of action," Gibson said. "And all of us are coming together to say: before you take away housing subsidies, raise college tuition and fire teachers, just make sure that corporations are paying their fair share in taxes like the rest of us."
The broader goal is to "reshape the national debate" and challenge the tea party's narrative that "government can't do good things for people, and that we can't raise taxes, we can only cut."
"Maybe there isn't a spending problem. Maybe it's a revenue problem," Gibson said. "And it's not that the money's not there. The money is there. It's with these corporations who aren't paying taxes."
Photo credit: USUncut.org