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Message to Banks: Pay US Back

A protester on Wall Street, September 19, 2011. (Photo: Dan Nguyen)

Today, the Association of Washington Business, the powerful chamber of Washington State businesses, is in the midst of its annual policy summit in the beautiful mountain resort of Suncadia.

There are golf tournaments, wine tastings, a keynote by Gov. Christine Gregoire and seminars such as, “Where Will the Money Come From?” led by Phyllis Campbell, the Northwest regional director of JP Morgan Chase Bank.

But attendees will also have some unexpected visitors. Called the “Showdown at Suncadia,” hundreds of homeowners, community leaders, union members, and more from across the state are interrupting this gathering in a series of creative, direct actions to demand that the big banks and corporations pay their fair share to help fix the economy.

Suncadia is the just the first stop.

Three years ago, when the collapse of Wall Street banks pushed our economy to the brink, taxpayers bailed out the guilty. Instead of demonstrating gratitude, the banks continued to hand out big bonuses, lobbied against financial reform and foreclosed on millions of families.

Now, too many politicians are slashing critical investments in education, infrastructure and jobs, hurting the very people who are struggling to survive with less and less, while the big banks profit more and more. The big banks have cost us, but it's American families who are stuck picking up the tab. A tab that includes 11 million jobs lost, six million foreclosed homes, billions in pensions wiped away and tens of thousands of vacant bank-owned properties littering neighborhoods from coast to coast.

That's why Americans are coming to collect. Starting this week, and rolling across the country through the next few weeks, everyday people will do what politicians from both parties have failed to do: demand that the big banks “Pay US Back.”

Thousands of people from all walks of life will come together to turn up the street heat on Wall Street and the corporations and politicians they finance. They'll demand that the Wall Street big banks:

Pick Up Their Own Tab: Stop passing the costs for the financial crisis onto American families, cities and states. Pay cities and states back for all the money they are spending to clean up and police banks' foreclosures and vacant properties.

Pay Their Fair Share of Taxes: Stop draining government of revenue and pay their statutorily required 35 percent corporate income tax. Stop gaming the system through offshore tax shelters and loopholes. Bank of America alone has 371 tax-sheltered subsidiaries, 204 on the Cayman Islands.

Stabilize the Housing Market and Revitalizing the Economy: Reduce principal for all underwater homeowners to current market value. This would end the foreclosure crisis, reset the housing market, pump billions of dollars back into the economy and create one million jobs a year.

Invest in American Jobs: Stop sitting on their more than one trillion in cash reserves that could be invested into small businesses, the primary vehicle for job creation in the US, as well as into additional job-generating investments.

If we're serious about ending the jobs crisis and rebuilding a strong economy, we're going to need new revenue to make much-needed investments into research and infrastructure that will revitalize our economy and into the hardworking, talented people who make this country great.

It won't be easy. Wall Street bankers have a stranglehold on our democracy, having secured partial ownership of both major political parties in the US through their big-dollar lobbying and campaign contributions.

It will take a movement to loosen that vise. As economist and former US Secretary of Labor Robert Reich said last week at an economic summit organized by Minnesotans for a Fair Economy: “It's only through grassroots organizing and activism that the voices of average Americans can be heard above the roar of corporate and Wall Street money.”

Grassroots and labor organizations are answering the call. The New Bottom Line; SEIU locals in Boston, Seattle and more; Right to the City; and more are at the frontline organizing these actions and events. But the fun won't stop there.

The actions will launch a broader Wall Street accountability effort in 2012, including ballot initiatives; local, state, and federal legislation; and divestment campaigns and key public moments to hold politicians accountable by asking, “Which side are you on: Wall Street bankers' or American families'?”

Together, we will fight to build an economy that works for all of us. Our bottom line means good jobs, healthy communities and a government that fights for everyday people.

To join the fight go to, follow us at twitter at @nblcampaign/#newbottomline.

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