WEST HARTFORD, Conn. - Chanting "We Pay Taxes, Why Don't You?" 100 protesters rallied in front of Bank of America here on Tax Day. The event was one of several in Connecticut and hundreds around the country by labor and consumer groups singling out that bank and other corporations for enjoying huge profits while paying little or no taxes.
Modest increases in revenues from large corporations and billionaires would help close state and city budget gaps and enable services and jobs to continue.
Last week the Connecticut Action Alliance for a Fair Economy, who sponsored the protest with Connecticut Citizen Action Group and MoveOn, issued a research paper, "Bank of America in Connecticut: Profiting Without Pitching In."
The paper showed that Bank of America paid no federal or state income taxes in 2009, due to 115 offshore tax havens. In Connecticut, 500 of the bank's workers and their families receive such low pay and benefits that they qualify for the state's Husky health program for children, costing taxpayers $6.4 million a year.
While the mega-corporation accepted federal bailout money to be used for small business loans to stimulate the economy, the paper states, in 2009 the bank made only two small business loans in Connecticut, totaling $75,000.
Bank of America's record on home foreclosures was also examined. Instead of mitigating and restructuring mortgages, they often foreclose on families, driving down local property values and hurting the local community.
In the last decade, the bank spent $11 million on campaign contributions and $24 million on lobbying. They received $2.3 billion from the federal government in 2009, while posting $4.4 billion in profits.
"America and Connecticut are not broke - we need to demand that everyone pays their fair share to rebuild the American Dream," said Tom Swan, director of the citizen action group.
Similar actions were held in Danbury, Fairfield and New Haven, where many drivers honked their horns in support. Protesters there marched from the Elm Street post office to the Bank of America next to City Hall. A poster-size tax bill was delivered to the bank manager.
At the main Brewery Street post office in the evening, members of the New Haven Peace Council distributed fliers to a steady stream of people coming to mail their tax returns. "See how your tax dollar is being spent," they said, showing that more than half of discretionary funding goes to the military.
"This is very bad," said one middle-aged woman, worried about how cuts to services would affect her.
The Connecticut Community Action Group and Connecticut Action for a Fair Economy have been visible at each of Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy's 17 town hall meetings on the state budget, asking why Bank of America isn't paying their fair share, especially in a time when we are asked to participate in "shared sacrifice".
Testimonies also highlighted income inequality, which is at it's highest in the United States since the 1920s. The richest 1 percent own 40 percent of the wealth. Millionaires comprise one fifth of 1 percent of taxpayers, but receive about 17.6 percent of income tax cuts.
In Connecticut, the Better Choices for Connecticut budget would close the shortfall with several measures to make the tax system more progressive. In response to the public pressure, Gov Malloy has announced he will amend his proposal to include more taxes on the wealthiest and less on middle-income residents. His proposal also includes an Earned Income Tax Credit for the lowest incomes, but there is concern that this measure might be sacrificed.
Photo: Tom Swan, director of Connecticut Community Action Group, addresses Tax Day crowd at Bank of America in West Hartford, Conn. Photo by Tom Connolly.