US Uncut Stages Flashmob at Bank of America Over Its Failure to Pay US Income Taxes

Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times in his weekly op ed discussed the use of humor in protests in Serbia and Egypt, as well as in changing attitudes on teen smoking. Funny that he did not mention UK Uncut, which has staged large scale rallies over the fact that many major corporations pay little in the way of tax when they are showing record profits yet ordinary citizens are expected to pay more in taxes and suffer large reductions in social services. Its US sister is starting to get a foothold, as a video of a protest at Bank of America in San Francisco attests.

And before you defend the current bias in our tax regime toward individual versus corporate taxes, consider this discussion from Richard Wolf in the Guardian (emphasis his):

During the Great Depression, federal income tax receipts from individuals and corporations were roughly equal. During the second world war, income tax receipts from corporations were 50% greater than from individuals. The national crises of depression and war produced successful popular demands for corporations to contribute significant portions of federal tax revenues.

US corporations resented that arrangement, and after the war, they changed it. Corporate profits financed politicians’ campaigns and lobbies to make sure that income tax receipts from individuals rose faster than those from corporations and that tax cuts were larger for corporations than for individuals. By the 1980s, individual income taxes regularly yielded four times more than taxes on corporations’ profits…

Corporations repeated at the state and local levels what they accomplished federally. According to the US Census Bureau, corporations paid taxes on their profits to states and localities totalling $24.7bn in 1988, while individuals then paid income taxes of $90bn. However, by 2009, while corporate tax payments had roughly doubled (to $49.1bn), individual income taxes had more than tripled (to $290bn).

Courtesy US Uncut:

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  1. mcgee

    That made me howl with laughter.
    Reminded me of code pink, whatever happened to them?

    The kids dancing were the best part. Maybe their generation will bring the change necessary.

  2. readerOfTeaLeaves

    Am reading Shaxson’s “Treasure Islands”, and wow does this topic need **a lot** more conversation. And music, and dance, and wit…

    Interesting to listen to Haldane’s speech at INETeconomics (google ‘Bretton Woods’ + haldane), in which it becomes quite clear that tax havens are a huge part of current economic dysfunction.

    Hope this is an opening salvo in a much longer, funnier Rule of Ridicule in which groups like UNCut mock these financial Frankensteins into dissolution.

  3. rps

    “….Is there no danger to our liberty and independence in a bank that in its nature has so little to bind it to our country?… Should its influence become concentered, as it may under the operation of such an act as this, in the hands of a self-elected directory whose interests are identified with those of the foreign stockholders, will there not be cause to tremble for the purity of our elections in peace and for the independence of our country in war? Their power would be great whenever they might choose to exert it…..

    Experience should teach us wisdom. Most of the difficulties our Government now encounters and most of the dangers which impend over our Union have sprung from an abandonment of the legitimate objects of Government by our national legislation, and the adoption of such principles as are embodied in this act. Many of our rich men have not been content with equal protection and equal benefits, but have besought us to make them richer by act of Congress. By attempting to gratify their desires we have in the results of our legislation arrayed section against section, interest against interest, and man against man, in a fearful commotion which threatens to shake the foundations of our Union. It is time to pause in our career to review our principles, and if possible revive that devoted patriotism and spirit of compromise which distinguished the sages of the Revolution and the fathers of our Union. If we can not at once, in justice to interests vested under improvident legislation, make our Government what it ought to be, we can at least take a stand against all new grants of monopolies and exclusive privileges, against any prostitution of our Government to the advancement of the few at the expense of the many, and in favor of compromise and gradual reform in our code of laws and system of political economy….”

    Veto Message of the Bill on the Bank of the United States
    Andrew Jackson
    July 10, 1832

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Really? I’m sure you watched it longer than you would have a clip on the evening with people chanting something like “BofA! Didn’t pay!”

      The message sticks and the people associated with it are likeable. That makes it good advertising.

  4. F. Beard

    Hey BOA and other fractional reserve bankers,

    The quid pro quo of the government enforced counterfeiting cartel is that you shall share your loot with government via taxes.

    So pay up then.

    Don’t like paying those taxes? Then lobby for fundamental reform in money creation. Once reform is accomplished then the need for socialism (and taxes) should “wither away”.

  5. Clonal Antibody

    Richard Wolf says:

    During the Great Depression, federal income tax receipts from individuals and corporations were roughly equal.

    What Wolf fails to mention is depicted in the graph below

    At a 2006 Median family income of $50,000, adjusted for BLS inflation, this is how much tax as a percentage of income would be paid from 1913 onwards. this includes FICA and income tax on a family of two with no children, but does not include UI Insurance, or contribution to medical insurance

    So for the middle class, WWII never ended! While for the rich, things went back to the days of the “Robber Barrons”

  6. Joe

    I really like the spirit of this. Even the employees are smiling and laughing. I do keep a BoA account right now, but I have been sure to only keep minimal funds in it. Collectivly we can make a dent. Corporations do spend millions in PR. They are nothing without clients. Money spent on doing the right thing is an investment. Tide is turning and people are waking up, and I love to see it expressed through humorful fun ways.

  7. dearieme

    UK Uncut have managed to protest that a charity didn’t pay corporation tax and that a company that made large profits last tax year paid no tax on the previous year’s nil profit. I’d call them moronic if I didn’t suspect that the misleading is intentional.

  8. Philip Pilkington

    “By the 1980s, individual income taxes regularly yielded four times more than taxes on corporations’ profits…”

    Eh… what on earth are you complaining about? Reagan always said that individuals needed to pick up the gauntlet and be responsible for their great nations.

    Then again he also claimed that government should get off their backs — whoops:

    Well, one out of two ain’t bad, right?

    1. Philip Pilkington

      You could argue that the means of the protest were childish — I agree with, Yves; I know what sells and this sort of thing sells. It resembles one of those ‘prank’ videos that go around emails.

      The Tea Party’s rhetoric, on the other hand, only caters toward the old and the cantankerous — its usually popular those that spend too much time dwelling on their own retirement making it an ineffective movement.

      So, you get scare images. Images of death at the hands of unknown medical tribunals — a perfect symbol for the unfortunate fears that old age and infirmity bring. Images of totalitarian strife that no-one wants to see. It all resembles a depression commercial — or an insurance sales pitch; no one wants to hear it unless they have to.

      From a purely PR standpoint the lefties win hands down. From a purely intellectual standpoint, that article you linked to reads like a four-year old wrote it.

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