Make Wall Street Pay

“The money is there; it’s on Wall Street. They just need to go get it,” said a young African-American woman inside the Washington DC office of Sen. Mitch McConnell whose office was being occupied by about 600 people demanding that the senator and his colleagues on Capitol Hill stop trying to balance the budget by cutting social services and instead tax big corporations that caused the Great Recession and the ensuing spike in the budget deficit.

The occupation of McConnell’s office on Monday was only one stop in what was a busy day for the kickoff of the Make Wall Street Pay Campaign. The morning began with the occupation of a Washington DC Bank of America branch that temporarily caused the bank to close for business; the protest then moved to Capitol Hill where in addition to Sen McConnell’s, the office of House Speaker John Boehner was occupied. After which, the group picketed the hotel where the National Association of State Attorneys General was meeting, demanding that the state AGs take aggressive action against banks like Bank of America that profited from predatory lending practices that caused so many families to lose their homes to foreclosure.

“Inspired by workers in Wisconsin and Ohio, Americans from coast to coast are now standing up and fighting back,” said George Goehl of National People’s Action, which organized Monday’s events. ” Even more hopeful is how we are shifting from defense to offense. Just take the issue of budgets – Americans are now standing up saying we will not be fooled by false debates about budgets and deficits. We know the country is not facing a budget crisis — it’s a revenue crisis. And, we found the money. It’s on Wall Street.”

NPA also used the occasion to announce the release of a report entitled Big Bank Tax Drain. The report says that state budget woes that are causing so many cuts to schools and social services are not caused by too much spending but by too little revenue, the result of the Great Recession.

The point of the Make Wall Street Pay campaign is to hold those responsible for the recession accountable for their actions by making them pay for the damage that they’ve done. The Big Bank Tax Drain finds that instead of paying their fair share, Wall Street banks have been given huge tax breaks. According to the report:

  • Bank of America for the 2010 tax year will receive a $666 million tax refund, two times the amount of the proposed federal budget cuts for the Community Block Grant program,
  • Banks use a variety of mechanisms, such as offshore tax shelters, to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley have incorporated half of their 1,871 foreign subsidiaries in offshore tax havens like the Cayman Islands to avoid paying corporate income taxes, and
  • Closing tax loopholes on the financial sector would generate $150 billion in federal tax revenue a year.

“Wall Street has bankrupted our communities, counties, and states, and not paid their fair share,” Goehl said. “We can (and must) make Wall Street pay.”

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