BOSTON/Beacon Hill - Over 30 people - mainly residents of housing subsidized by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, and tenant organizations in the Save Our Homes Coalition - held a protest at the Bank of America on Cambridge St. on Saturday "to urge Sens. Scott Brown and John Kerry to tax the wealthy and big corporations"to prevent cuts to HUD that would displace thousands of Massachusetts tenants if enacted."
Advocates pointed to recent reports by US Uncut - a new organization inspired by London-based UK Uncut - that point out that major corporations like Bank of America, Verizon and Citigroup currently pay no federal taxes and even get tax refunds because of reporting losses in the US while “parking” profits overseas where they are not subject to federal taxes.
They said that if corporations were forced to pay the taxes they owed, there would be no need to cut social services like housing during the ongoing economic crisis - even if deficit hawks continue to drive economic policy at the federal level.
Protest organizer Michael Kane of the Mass. Alliance of HUD Tenants said, “We organized the events to publicize the message that new revenues can and should be sought by taxing the rich and giant corporate tax cheats to close the federal budget deficit. Its outrageous that each of us who paid taxes paid more than Bank of America, Verizon and Citigroup combined! If they paid their fair share, it would be more enough to fully fund HUD rental housing in the face of the $5.5 billion in 2012 cuts proposed by the Ryan Budget passed by the House. Bank of America and Citigroup alone should have paid $5.9 billion last year - but didn't pay a dime. In fact, they received a tax refund!”
T.J. Crawford, senior vice president of media relations at Bank of America responded, “The individuals behind this protest are entitled to their own opinion, but they are not entitled to their own set of facts. Income tax is based on income, and in 2010 we reported a loss. However, we still paid more than $2 billion in state and local taxes across the country.
“We take our responsibilities as a corporate citizen very seriously, and when we owe taxes we pay them. In fact, over the last 10 years no company has paid more U.S. taxes than Bank of America.
“In 2010, we provided approximately $4.4 billion in affordable housing loans and investments benefiting low- and moderate-income, minority and underserved customers and communities in Massachusetts. This is to say nothing of our $12 million in statewide charitable giving, and the more than 30,000 hours volunteered by Bank of America employees helping to make a difference at the local level."
Advocates remain unmoved by such arguments.
Steve Meacham of City Life/Vida Urbana, "Bank of America refuses to do two things essential to solving the foreclsoure crisis: one, ending no-fault evictions after foreclosure and accepting rents; two, reducing principal to current real value as part of principal reduction and accepting a share of future equity appreciation. In fact, they have organized against these outcomes. That's why 350 people from 8 cities protested B of A on May 14 to demand justice. Charity is good, but justice is essential."
Following a rally outside the Bank of America branch attendees marched up Cambridge St. - past local Verizon and Citigroup offices - to the Federal Building at Government Center where they displayed giant mock checks made out to the “People of the United States” from each of those three companies.
The activists hoped that their action - and the series of similar actions around the US - would have an effect on Sen. Scott Brown’s votes on major proposed cuts to social services being passed repeatedly by the Republican-dominated House of Representatives in the current Congressional session. They view Sen. John Kerry as an ally in the fight to preserve such services, but are unhappy with Brown’s voting record on economic issues.
Kane said, “Sen. Kerry issued a statement recently supporting new revenues from the wealthy and big corporations. The Save Our Homes Coalition sent a letter to Scott Brown asking him to do the same. To date, he has not responded.
“Brown instead has called for deep spending cuts tied to the necessary raise in the debt ceiling. Unless there are also new revenues, this will mean drastic cuts to programs affecting the poor. We've invited Brown to a National Alliance of HUD Tenants conference forum in DC on June 21. So our rally was part of the process of trying to get Brown to step forward on this issue.”
Kerry spokesperson Whitney Smith said, “Sen. Kerry has long supported closing the tax loopholes and believes every corporation should pay their fair share. Earlier this year, he opposed Republican attempts to cut the HUD budget in the Ryan budget plan.”
Brown’s staff did not respond to a request for comment on these issues by Open Media Boston.
The Save Our Homes Coalition plans to continue protests against Bank of America, Verizon, Citigroup and other “corporate tax scofflaws” until they start paying what advocates consider a reasonable amount of federal taxes. They will also keep the pressure up on both Mass. senators to vote down legislation from the House of Representatives that punishes working families while letting the wealthy and corporations off the hook America's declining economic fortunes.