A team of make-believe baseball players descended on Trump Tower in New York on Tuesday afternoon, using tax day to highlight corporate unaccountability as Ann Romney, wife of Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney, celebrated her birthday at an exclusive party inside.
The so-called Tax Dodgers wore white uniforms, not unlike their LA-based counterparts in the MLB, with “1%” emblazoned on the back of their jerseys, a nod to the nation’s highest earners. The satirical sports stars were supported in their efforts by the Loopholes, a team of red-dressed cheerleaders, and their mascot Mitt, a giant walking baseball mitt. A man in a fedora carrying a bag of fake money and a cigar appeared to be the team’s manager and described the Dodgers as “the best team corporate money can buy”.
The demonstration was part of a nationwide day of action coordinated by a coalition of activist organizations working with an umbrella group, 99% Spring, which aimed to pull off 350 protests in 43 states. A number of the demonstrations kicked off at local post offices, where many Americans were filing their taxes, followed by scheduled marches through financial centers around the country.
In addition to New York’s action, protesters in swing states planned to target politicians who have opposed the “Buffett rule”, Barack Obama’s plan to reduce economic inequality by introducing a higher minimum tax rate for taxpayers in the highest income bracket. In Pittsburgh, protesters gathered outside the office of senator Pat Toomey, who today called the “Buffett rule” a “political stunt” on the floor of the Senate. Similar demonstrations were also planned at the offices of senator Ron Johnson in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and senator Roy Blunt in Kansas City, Missouri.
For Cathy Cyphers Soref, an attendee at Ann Romney’s fundraising birthday party inside Trump Tower, the protesters’ repeated references to loopholes made little sense.
“Where’s the loophole?” Soref told the Guardian. “I mean, I want one. There aren’t many loopholes, believe me. If I could find it, I would do it.”
Soref said she owns a philanthropic genetic research business that has generated $20m “modestly”. She claimed to have recently returned from a trip to Mexico, where she says she visited with the family of Carlos Slim, the richest man in the world. Soref believes America’s wealthy class has been demonized through misunderstanding.
“We are the big bad people. We’re the ones who were lucky enough to be the offspring of inventors, who invented things that became a staple that made a lot of money,” Soref said. “My husband’s family, the eight heirs, his children and probably his grandchildren and the cousins’ grandchildren – because of good investments that they do that allows other people to have money, when you invest or create a business – we’re bad because we have unearned income from being inherited money.”
“I pay, our family pays, in excess, state federal and local taxes, probably 55%, no fooling,” Soref said. She argued that when George W Bush cut taxes for wealthy Americans, it gave her the freedom to launch a company that provides a service to society.
But LeRoy Johnson, with New York Communities for Change, saw the issue differently. He works in a Brooklyn neighborhood where the average annual income is well under $40,000. He was on the sidewalk early Tuesday morning, trying to rally support for the “Buffett rule” among community members by handing out fliers portraying Mitt Romney as a tax dodger.
Standing across the street from a boarded up and deteriorating school, Johnson said the message of financial accountability, particularly the issue of paying taxes, resonates with most citizens in a way that Mitt Romney couldn’t understand.
He said: “People agree with what we are doing because people are hurting. The neioghborhoods are hurting everywhere.” The former governor, Johnson said, was “born rich”.
“Romney doesn’t know how it is to feel hardship,” he said.