Who's Economy? Its Our Economy!
On April 15th, a concert
and protest against Bank of America was held in Union Square Park. This
was the first event organized by Its Our
Economy, and it was co-sponsored by 16 other groups concerned about hunger,
health care, housing, economic justice and ending war. Big finance
and giant corporate banks are a root cause of the collapse of the
U.S. economy and the decay of our political system.
The crowd heard from people facing foreclosure and bank harassment, Pulitzer Prize winning writer, Chris Hedges and Margaret Flowers of Physicians for a National Health Program, Gary Null from WBAI and Debra Sweet from World Can't Wait. They heard music from political hip-hop/rock powerhouse Junkyard Empire with special guests Broadcast Live and Sketch the Cataclysm. The music was hot, the speakers were solid and the hundreds in the crowd were excited and ready to make it OUR ECONOMY.
When the picket protest of the Bank of America across the street was announced people immediately lined up and marched over. The crowded picket covered both sides of the corner of the bank. When five of us went inside to continue the protest, at least 50 others joined us. The 8-10 security guards at the bank, obviously prepared for our arrival, could do nothing to stop us. There were chants of "BANK OF AMERICA SHAME ON YOU - WE PAY OUR TAXES WHY DON'T YOU," "PEOPLE NOT PROFITS, STOP FORECLOSURES NOW" and "FEED THE POOR, NOT THE WAR." Tarak Kauff from Veterans For Peace spoke connecting the big money banks with the wars, both inside America on the poor and shrinking middle class, and overseas. Nellie Bailly from Harlem Fight Back spoke on the devastation caused by foreclosures, Dr. Margaret Flowers spoke on the connection between corporate power and their tax avoidance schemes on basic human services, noting that Medicare and Medicaid were now on the chopping block, she said "Medicare is not the problem, it's the solution." I pointed to the type of economy we want one where everyone has more control over their economic lives, has influence on the direction of the economy and where peoples necessities come before corporate profits.
Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize winning author spoke about how a culture of resistance is all we have left:
"Life is not only about us. We can never have justice until our neighbor has justice. And we can never recover our freedom until we are willing to sacrifice our comfort for open rebellion. The president has failed us. The Congress has failed us. The courts have failed us. The press has failed us. The universities have failed us. Our process of electoral democracy has failed us. There are no structures or institutions left that have not been contaminated or destroyed by corporations. And this means it is up to us. Civil disobedience, which will entail hardship and suffering, which will be long and difficult, which at its core means self-sacrifice, is the only mechanism left."
Our first demand was Bank of America: Pay Your Taxes!!
We started off the tax day weekend with this demand for the largest bank in America: a bank with 2.3 trillion in assets and billions in profits that has paid ZERO taxes each of the last two years despite high profits, huge executive salaries and big bonuses. For 2010 they will receive a tax refund of $666 million and in 2009 they received a tax refund of $3.5 billion despite receiving $50 billion in the Wall Street bailout and continuing to reap multi-billion dollar annual profits.
They avoid paying taxes by sending money overseas into tax havens which removes it from and thereby weakens the U.S. economy and the lost tax revenue weakens city, state and federal budgets. Of the 2,000 Bank of America subsidiaries, 371 are in tax havens out of the country, indeed they have 204 tax havens in the Cayman Islands alone where the corporate tax rate is 0%. Bank of America compounds the problem by also advising its wealthy clients on how to avoid taxes by sending money to tax havens.