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A Primer on Tax Day Activism

(Photo: Justen Eason / Flickr)

With Tax Day hard on our heels, David Cay Johnston has done a tremendous service by boiling down and unpacking what he calls the nine things the rich don't want you to know about taxes.

There aren't really nine discrete items in his list but the main points are:

  1. Poor Americans pay taxes
  2. Many rich people actually avoid paying any income tax at all
  3. Many corporations also avoid taxes
  4. Republicans like taxes too
  5. (and, my favorite): Other countries do it better

Read former New York Times-man Johnston's deep debunking of some of what he considers the most pernicious media-perpetuated tax myths.

Because of its symbolic power and resonant history, Tax Day has always occasioned grassroots protests from both the left and right. For decades, the American Friends Service Committee and the War Resisters League have organized volunteers to distributeinformational flyers detailing where your tax money really goesand Noam Chomsy and Howard Zinn famously organized a tax strike in 1968 to protest US involvement in Vietnam. These days the Tea Party likes to use the day to express what its members argue is excessive federal spending and government run amok.

People have protested taxation at numerous times in US history, sometimes violently. The American Revolution originated with protests against the Stamp Act and Townshend Acts by which Britain sought to tax the American colonies. In 1794, settlers in western Pennsylvania reacted to a federal tax on liquor with theWhiskey Rebellion. The adverse effect of the Tariff of 1828 on southern commerce led South Carolina to reject the tariff and threaten secession. In each of these cases, opponents of the tax(s) in question contended that it was a question of government over-reach.

In this tradition, in Portland, Oregon on April 15, the Oregon Community of War Tax Resistance and War Resisters League will once again “publicly redirect federal taxes to a few of the (many) organizations that serve the common good.” The goal is to recognize tax redirection as a legitimate form of nonviolent direct action against war.

Much of the rest of the most vibrant Tax Day activism is being fueled by the US Uncut movement, which my colleague Allison Kilkenny has been regularly chronicling in her superb Nationguest-blogging. This week, US Uncut is sponsoring a national series of actions marking tax weekend, many targeting Bank of America branches coast to coast. (Why BoA? It received $45 billion in government bailout funds while funneling its tax dollars into 115 separate offshore tax havens.)

There are more than thirty US Uncut events nationwide planned for Friday, including a rally and direct actionscheduled in New York City's Union Sq. Park, virtually right outside the doors of The Nation's office; a “civilized and peaceful” demonstration and outdoor teach-in at the main Bank of America branch in Tempe, Arizona; in New Haven, CT a coalition of students and area workers will collaborate on a demonstration and leafletting in front of the Bank of America office, at the CT Financial Center; in Seattle, there's going to a be lunchtime party with free food for anyone who wants to come down and close their Bank of America accounts and in Sacramento, activists are planning a non-violent occupation of the State Capitol grounds to be followed by a mass “shout-out.”

Check the US Uncut website for information on when and where protests will take place and consider joining demonstrators to demand an end to the corrupt system that allows corporations to go untaxed while services and programs for low- and middle-income Americans are severely cut.

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