Take Back the Capitol shuts down K Street, demands jobs and new priorities

More than 1,000 people On December 7 converged on K Street, the home of lobbyists who represent corporations from all over the world in Washington DC. They were demanding a new set of priorities for the US–priorities that address the needs of the 99 percent, such as jobs, health care, and protection from corporations that cut benefits and wages for workers while spending lavishly on executive compensation and dodging their responsibilities to the public.

“We are unstoppable; another world is possible,” chanted some of the demonstrators as they blocked traffic and shut down K Street for more than an hour. More than 60 people, who refused to leave K Street after they were ordered onto the sidewalk, were arrested.

Demonstrators targeted the lobbying offices of corporations that pay more for executive compensation and lobbying efforts than they do in taxes. Verizon was one of their targets. Demonstrators chanted, “Shame on Verizon, pay your fair share.”

Verizon, whose effective tax rate over the last three years according to Citizens for Tax Justice has been -2.9 percent, received a 2010 federal tax refund of $705 million. During the same year, it paid its now-retired CEO Ivan Seidenberg $18.1 million.

Verizon, however, has been much less generous with its workers. Verizon is seeking to cut its union workers’ health care and pension benefit and outsource more of their work.

In 2004, Verizon and other corporations received a tax holiday that allowed to repatriate funds that they were holding overseas without paying taxes. For Verizon, the tax holdiay meant that it didn’t have to pay taxes on $2.2 billion. The rationale for the tax holiday was that corporations would use the money that they brought back to the US to create more jobs. Since then, Verizon has laid off 39,000 workers.

Other targets included General Electric and the American Bankers Association.

The K Street demonstration was one of the events that are part of the Take Back the Capitol week of action, organized by a group of labor and community organizations. On Tuesday, hundreds of people who came from all parts of the US went to the Capitol to press their case for Congress to support a jobs bill that puts people back to work.

People also talked to Members of Congress about the need to maintain Medicaid and Medicare funding and to give distressed homeowners foreclosure relief. They were angry that Wall Street bankers who profited from the housing bubble that they created were bailed out by the federal government when the bubble burst, but workers like themselves, who lost jobs, health care benefits, and sometimes their homes as a result of the recession that followed, have received no such comparable help.

A group of about 20 workers lined up outside the office of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) on Tuesday. They had come from California to urge him to support President Obama’s jobs bill and other legislation designed to help the 99 percent, but Rep. Issa refused to see them.

When asked why she had come to see Rep. Issa, Tami Orr, Vice-Chair of California United Homecare Workers in Shasta County, said that she wanted to tell Rep. Issa about the recent 20 percent cut to funding for home care services for the state’s elderly and disabled. Reduced funding for this vital service is the result of state budget cuts, some of which can be avoided if Congress passes the jobs bill proposed by the President.

Mariana Anaya said that she wanted Rep. Issa to know about the struggle she went through to hold on to her house. Anaya, a single parent, used up all the money in her 401(k) account to keep her house. She tried to get the bank to agree to a mortgage modification, but the bank stalled until there was no more money left in her savings account and then foreclosed on her.

Martha Rodriguez, an eligibility worker who helps people in need get help, said that her caseload has grown as more people are out of work. Many of her clients are immigrants who came to this country to work, but there aren’t enough jobs. “These people need jobs,” Rodriguez said. “They’re seeking public assistance not because they want to but because they have to.”

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