Nicole Tichon and Gan Golan: By projecting a Tax Evader video game on the side of banks and big corporate buildings, actions aim to focus public attention on banks and big companies that pay low to no taxes.
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Baltimore.
In cities across the country, there were actions labeled tax dodgers, tax evaders, all about highlighting corporate tax evasion.
Now joining us are two people that involved were involved in this campaign.
From Washington, D.C. is Nicole Tichon. She’s director of the Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency Coalition and Tax Justice Network U.S.A. She’s been a legislative aid on banking issues in Congress and spent several years at Deloitte Consulting, working in their financial services integration unit.
And also joining us, from New York, is Gan Golan. He’s a New York Times bestselling author and artist and activist who uses creativity to amplify the fight for economic justice. Last year he created something called the tax dodgers baseball. And you may not believe it, but they now have their own exhibit at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
Thanks very much to both of you for joining us.
GAN GOLAN, AUTHOR AND ACTIVIST: Glad to be here.
Jay: So, Gan, give us a sense of what’s been going on. Describe some of the actions.
Golan: Last week there’s been a whole series of creative actions taking place across the country with a very simple point, which is that why are we even talking about making cuts to Social Security and other basic services before going after the corporate tax evaders that have essentially stolen hundreds of billions of dollars out of our budget and our economy. And to shine a light on these corporate tax evaders, we’ve done a parody of the classic video game Space Invaders and turned all those little alien robots into the corporations that are evading taxes. And we created a video game that’s online at TaxEvaders.net. And in combination with that, we have projection teams in several cities across the country who are projecting the video game onto the side of the buildings of those corporations and having crowds of people in the street play that game and blasting those corporate tax evaders right on the side of their buildings. We also have what are called overpass light brigades, which are groups of people with these illuminated letters that spell out messages on the top of overpasses and other public spaces who are spelling out in lights things like “Tax evader GE”, “Tax evader Bank of America”, and things like that. And so we’re really bringing a lot of light to the subject, you could say.
Jay: Nicole, Gan uses the word these corporations stole, you know, millions of dollars. But they didn’t really steal it, did they? It’s legal what they did. The problem you’re raising is that it is legal.
NICOLE TICHON, EXEC. DIR., TAX JUSTICE NETWORK U.S.A.: The issue is that a lot of things that used to be legal are no longer, such as child labor and things like that. And just because it’s legal doesn’t mean that it’s right. And what we need to do is focus on those who are making the laws and those who can change the law to basically close the loopholes that [incompr.] corporations are able to take advantage of.
Jay: So give some examples of what you’re talking about.
Tichon: Sure. You have corporations such as Apple and Google and Pfizer who make a lot of money here in the United States, but they will shift [incompr.] claiming that their intellectual property is housed in another country with a lower tax rate, so that all of the business that they do in the states, you know, taking advantage of our consumer base and taking advantage of our market and, you know, all the things that make it great to do business here, but that are in fact dodging their taxes by saying that they’re either headquartered in another country or that the profits are in fact booked in another country, and that’s just not true.
Jay: Gan, in terms of your actions and what’s going on politically, does this—people have been aware of this for quite a while, the way this copyright shenanigan works and offshoring of these companies. Is there any movement taking place to do anything about it?
Golan: People are getting angrier and angrier, particularly in light of all these cuts that are being proposed, and we’re being told, oh, there’s this huge amount of debt that is forcing us to cut all these basic services. The truth is we have plenty of money. It’s just sitting in the Cayman Islands. And I think that’s what’s making people angry, that every year they are working hard and paying their fair share of taxes, and that’s a sacrifice that people are willing to make to pay to support the common good and keep this country running. And I think it really angers them that these corporations, some of them pay nothing. Some of them actually pay less than nothing and get tax rebates back. So I think there’s a greater public anger that’s growing the more people are aware of it, but also the harder times that people are having and still finding a way to pay their fare share.
Jay: Nicole, President Obama has talked a bit about some of this tax loopholes that need to be closed. On the other hand, he’s in support of lowering corporate tax rates. What do you make of the Obama administration’s role in all of this?
Tichon: It’s rather disappointing. I don’t understand why corporations are left out of this equation. You know, their contribution to revenues, you know, compared to what individuals are putting forth and people who are working and putting money into the payroll taxes is abysmal. It’s at its lowest point in the last 50 years. And the Obama administration is basically giving them a free pass in a way by saying that if they close the loopholes, well, don’t worry about it, you know, we’ll make up for it in another way. And that’s something we just do not support. And when we’re in a situation where corporations are already paying in the single digits or no money at all, you know, as big as GE and Google and Apple [incompr.] record profits, and we’re not even asking them to do their basic patriotic duty, and that’s to pay taxes.
Jay: And have you taken up at all the issue of estate taxes? It seems to me that’s one of the more dramatic changes in how wealth is taxed over the last decade or so. Many estates don’t have any estate tax at all anymore, and the federal estate tax has gone way down. Are you taking that issue up?
Tichon: We are not, but a number of our partner organizations are, and it really runs along the same line that you’re asking those to sacrifice who are still lying on the mat from the economic downturn and in fact trying to widen the loopholes and widen the benefits and give more tax breaks to those who don’t need them. And we really just can’t afford it.
Jay: So, Gan, tell me a little bit more about the tactics you’ve been using and what kind of response you’ve been getting from people on the street?
Golan: Well, it’s actually been a lot of fun, because it’s both an online campaign and a real-world campaign. One of the cool things that the website does is once you’ve actually succeeded at playing the video game, you can Twitter-bomb these corporations in rapid succession and just start firing Tweets straight at all of these corporations. And there have been, I think, over 10,000 Tweets that have gone at these corporations in the last couple of days. So that’s one thing we’re doing. But also we’re just trying to bring public awareness. And kind of, you know, one of the great things that’s happening with the video game is people are hooking them up to controllers and things on the streets, so they’re not playing on a laptop. They’re out in public jumping around, pumping their fists, and blasting these corporations up on the sides of these buildings. And I think it’s a way that we’re kind of demonstrating the kinds of actions that we need to take politically by playing this game.
Jay: Alright. One more time. Where do people find the game?
Golan: They can go to TaxEvaders.net.
Jay: Alright. Great. Alright. Thanks, Nicole. Thank you very much, Gan.
Golan: Thank you.
Tichon: Thank you.
Jay: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.