Northside POWER – Chicago Newstips by Community Media Workshop http://www.newstips.org Chicago Community Stories Mon, 14 Jul 2014 17:31:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.12 Corporate taxes and the state’s fiscal crisis http://www.newstips.org/2013/09/corporate-taxes-and-the-states-fiscal-crisis/ Thu, 26 Sep 2013 20:23:20 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=7720 A coalition of community, labor and religious groups will hold a press conference at 9 a.m., on Friday, September 27 at the Thompson Center press room and march over to the Bilandic Building, 160 N. LaSalle, to a House Revenue Committee hearing on the Illinois Corporate Responsibility and Tax Disclosure Act.

 

Illinois is in fiscal free-fall, but our political leaders seem incapable of addressing a structural deficit created by our regressive tax system.

The state’s crisis threaten to swamp the budgets of cities and school districts as well as funding for human services and health care, but “the only solutions that are ever discussed are deeper and deeper cuts,” said Kristi Sanford of Northside POWER, part of a statewide coalition pushing for corporate tax accountability.  “But these cuts just hurt Illinois families and the state’s economy — and no amount of cuts can solve the problem.”

Meanwhile Springfield is leaving serious money on the table:  two-thirds of corporations operating in Illinois paid no state income tax in 2010, according to the Illinois Department of Revenue.

According to the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, 80 percent of state revenues come from individual income tax and sales tax receipts; only 9 percent comes from corporate income taxes.

Corporations reporting billions in profits are estimated to have paid no state income tax.

We don’t know what individual corporations are paying, but major Illinois-based corporations — with massive profits — paid no federal income tax from 2008 to 2010 (in some cases receiving huge tax subsidies instead), according to Citizens for Tax Justice.

Who’s not paying?

And since state taxes track federal taxes, advocates say we can probably assume no Illinois income taxes were paid over those years by Boeing, with $14 billion in profits; Baxter International, with $1.3 billion in profits; Integrys Energy Group, with nearly $1.18 billion in profits; and Navistar International, with $1.1 billion in profits.

The problem is that for too long, corporations have entirely dominated tax policy debates, according to Dan Bucks, former director of revenue Montana, who advocates for corporate tax accountability measures.  He backs a measure now under consideration here to encourage greater public participation by requiring large publicly-traded corporations operating in Illinois to disclose their state income tax payments.

F”The citizens of Illinois ultimately own the tax system of the state,” said Bucks.  “They have a right to sufficient information to ensure that their tax system matches their values and is effective in achieving their goals.”

Fair Economy Illinois, a coalition of grassroots community organization from Chicago and downstate, is planning to pack Friday’s revenue committee hearing to demand passage of HB 3627.

Stalled in House

The State Senate passed a companion bill last year, but the House Revenue Committee voted it down.  Two Democrats on the panel, Rep. Frank Mautino (76th District) and Rep. Michael Zalewski (23rd District), helped defeat the measure.

Both are allies of House Speaker Michael Madigan, whom many hold responsible for Springfield’s inability to address the fiscal crisis in a balanced manner.

Sanford said a poll by Public Policy Polling showed nearly 80 percent of Illinois voters back legislation requiring publicly-traded corporations to disclose Illinois income tax payments.

Fair Economy Illinois also advocates closing several major corporate tax loopholes, including following the lead of other states by decoupling from the federal accelerated depreciation deduction, which would generate over $400 million a year. and eliminating a sales tax break for big box retailers, which could raise $115 million a year.

 

For more on those tax breaks, see last year’s Newstip, What corporate loopholes cost Illinois.

Also related:

In Springfield, no solutions

To fix state budget deficit, flip the tax burden

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GE hit on “tax dodging,” Durbin on budget cuts http://www.newstips.org/2013/08/ge-hit-on-tax-dodging-durbin-on-budget-cuts/ Wed, 21 Aug 2013 21:45:23 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=7632 A dozen community and faith groups will protest “tax dodging” by General Electric and call on Senator Dick Durbin to lead the charge for corporate tax reform to fund social programs in related actions tomorrow.

Protestors will deliver a giant “cease and desist” letter calling on GE to “stop dodging taxes while lobbying for cuts to Social Security” at GE’s Chicago headquarters, 500 W. Monroe, at 12 noon on Thursday, August 22.  They will demonstrate outside Durbin’s office at 230 S. Dearborn at 12:40 p.m.

It’s part of a national week of action “outing” corporate tax dodgers across the country by Chicago-based National Peoples Action.

Tax-free profits

From 2002 to 2012, GE paid $2.1 billion in federal income taxes while earning $88 billion in profits — a tax rate of 2.4 percent, far below the official rate of 35 percent — according to Americans for Tax Fairness.

In four of those years GE reported $22.5 billion in profits but paid no taxes — and received $4.8 billion in tax rebates, according to the group.

One way it accomplished this was by investing U.S. profits overseas, according to Huffington Post.

GE’s shifting of jobs overseas came under criticism when President Obama appointed GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt to head his jobs council.  Under Immelt, GE has shed 34,000 jobs in the U.S. while adding 25,000 overseas, according to HuffPost.

The company has also spent hundreds of millions of dollars lobbying for favorable tax treatment.  One study found GE was one of 30 large corporations that paid more for lobbying than for federal income tax.

Immelt is a key leader — and GE is a major funder — of the corporate Fix The Debt campaign which calls for reducing corporate taxes while cutting Social Security benefits and raising the retirement age.

Immelt has a $15 million retirement account himself, according to reports.

“Revenue neutral” reforms challenged

Protestors including ONE Northside, IIRON, SOUL, Northside POWER, and the Jane Addams Senior Caucus want Durbin to come out against “revenue neutral” corporate tax reform — and to oppose cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and other social programs.

The Obama administration has previously backed “revenue neutral” corporate tax reform — eliminating loopholes but lowering the tax rate — but the president recently proposed using some new revenues to fund infrastructure and education.

As a leader of the Senate “Gang of Six,” Durbin supported an essentially revenue-neutral corporate tax reform scheme.

Such an approach makes little sense given federal budget needs, with corporate profits at all-time highs, while corporate taxes are now half what they were in 1960  as a proportion of profits or of GDP, according to Jared Bernstein of the Economic Policy Institute.

Durbin has repeatedly come under fire for his support for reducing Social Security benefits and raising the retirement age.

Congress will consider measures to fund the federal government for Fiscal Year 2014 in coming weeks — and after that must once again address the issue of raising the debt ceiling.

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‘Durbinville’ dramatizes safety net cuts http://www.newstips.org/2012/12/durbinville-dramatizes-safety-net-cuts/ http://www.newstips.org/2012/12/durbinville-dramatizes-safety-net-cuts/#comments Thu, 06 Dec 2012 02:09:39 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6822 Local protestors will erect a “Durbinville” shantytown at the Federal Plaza at noon on Thursday, continuing their challenge to Senator Richard Durbin’s embrace of the austerity agenda that’s dominating budget talks in Washington.

Since Monday, a coalition of grassroots groups has been staging a soupline outside Durbin’s downtown office “to make visible the hunger and suffering that budget cuts will create,” according to a statement from IIRON.

All kinds of people are accepting the homemade soup being offered, and many are expressing surprise when they learn that Durbin is backing drastic safety net cuts, said Kristi Sanford of Northside POWER.

The long-term spending reductions Durbin is calling for — outlined in the Simpson-Bowles commission report he backed in 2010 – would be no better than the cuts required by “sequestration” if Congress fails to come up with a budget deal by the end of the year, Sanford said.

“They would push us back into recession, and we’d have more lost jobs and suffering,” she said.  “It would cut education, food security, a whole range of government services we rely on.”

At a recent speech at the Center for American Progress in Washington, Durbin cited the “fiscal conservatism” of his liberal predecessors, Paul Douglas and Paul Simon, to justify his stance.

According to Sanford, in a series of meetings with coalition members this year, Durbin refused to back off his call for cuts to Social Security.  But last month, after 19 protestors were arrested at his office, he seemed to relent slightly, saying Social Security cuts shouldn’t be part of a deal this year.

He’s still calling for deep cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, Sanford said, and he wants a commission to consider Social Security cuts next year.

The Simpson-Bowles report backed by Durbin called for reducing Social Security cost-of-living increases and raising the retirement age to 69.  It relies on a formula that assumes seniors would substitute cheaper alternatives as prices for necessities rise — thus earning Simpson-Bowles the nickname of “the catfood commission.”

Raising the retirement age would penalize low-income workers, whose life expectancy has not been rising, Sanford said.  (She suggested reading Paul Krugman’s analysis of this issue.)

If the federal government would restore pre-Bush era tax rates on the wealthy and institute a financial transaction tax – a small fee on sales of stocks and bonds, now being implemented in France and Germany, that could raise as much as $1.8 trillion over a decade – it could maintain the safety net and pay down the deficit, Sanford said.

At one meeting with the coalition, Durbin said he couldn’t back a financial transaction tax because it would impact the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, said Toby Chow of Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation.  CME is one of Durbin’s largest contributors, Sanford said.

Durbin has also failed to endorse legislation that would raise the income cap on payroll taxes and eliminate long-term shortfalls for Social Security. (President Obama backed this approach prior to his election.)

The shantytown and souplines are an effort to encourage Durbin to “look into the eyes of the people his budget decisions will affect, and remember that CEOs and Wall Street donors are not the only people with huge interests at stake in the budget negotiations,” Sanford said.

Organizers expect hundreds of protestors Thursday (December 6, 12 noon, Dearborn and Adams).   The coalition sponsoring the action includes Make Wall Street Pay/Illinois, IIRON, SOUL, Lakeview Action Coalition, Northside POWER, and Illinois Peoples Action.

 

An error regarding the date of the Simpson-Bowles report has been corrected.

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Groups tell Madigan, Donovan: ‘No’ to foreclosure deal http://www.newstips.org/2012/01/groups-tell-madigan-donovan-no-to-foreclosure-deal/ http://www.newstips.org/2012/01/groups-tell-madigan-donovan-no-to-foreclosure-deal/#comments Tue, 24 Jan 2012 01:11:05 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=5575 Community groups confronted HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan on Monday over a foreclosure fraud settlement the groups say is entirely inadequate.

Protestors sang, prayed, and testified outside a room in the O’Hare Hilton where Donovan and Justice Department officials were meeting with staff from state attorney generals to urge them to sign on to a settlement in a case arising out of the “robo-signing” scandal of October 2010 (see 10-21-10 Newstip).

The groups object to the deal with the five largest mortgage services – including Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase — as a “slap on the wrist” that would shield them from legal liability for a wide range of foreclosure misconduct.

(Van Jones of Rebuild The Dream and George Goehle of National Peoples Action spell out some concerns at Huffington Post.)

“President Obama and Attorney General Madigan must choose,” says Rev. Marilyn Pagan-Banks of Northside POWER. “Will they settle for a deal that benefits the 1 percent and lets the big banks off the hook? Or will they stand with the 99 percent and fight for accountability and a solution that will help millions of people?”

The O’Hare meeting may have been called to create an aura of inevitability around the settlement, Firedoglake reports, but none of the state attorney generals who have criticized its provisions were expected to attend.

Dissension in the ranks

Attorney generals of New York, California and other states have opposed provisions of the settlement that would give banks blanket immunity for misconduct and shut down ongoing investigations in New York and elsewhere.

Last week attorney generals from a dozen states (not including Illinois) met in Washington DC to discuss coordinating investigations — and their displeasure with settlement talks, according to Huffington.

Madigan is on the committee that is negotiating the settlement. After 50 state attorney generals began an investigation in 2010, the Obama administration began pressing for a settlement. (At Politico, Simon Johnson calls the case the administration’s “last chance” to stand up to banks.)

Several weeks ago members of the regional organizing network IIRON met with Madigan staff to express their displeasure with the deal. “They seemed surprised that we didn’t think the settlement is a great thing,” said Kristi Sanford.

When they learned of the meeting Monday, they organized a rally at the State of Illinois building – and upon learning the meeting’s location, a contingent set out for O’Hare.

There a couple dozen members of community groups from across the city asked a Madigan staffer if the attorney general could spare a few minutes to talk with them. The aide never returned – but police came to ask the protestors to leave, Sanford said.

The groups want banks to agree to write down underwater mortgages, and they say there must be a full-fledged investigation of bank misconduct. Criminal behavior by banks in the scandal is alleged to include perjury, filing false documents, illegal foreclosures, and investor fraud.

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King Day: Occupy the Fed, foreclosures, schools http://www.newstips.org/2012/01/king-day-occupy-the-fed-foreclosures-schools/ Sat, 14 Jan 2012 01:29:58 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=5448 The civil rights movement, the Occupy movement, and community organizations will come together for a series of events marking Martin Luther King’s birthday this week, including a demonstration Monday at the Federal Reserve led by African American clergy including Rev. Jesse Jackson.

At the time of his assassination, King was organizing an “occupation” of Washington D.C., and after his death thousands of people occupied Resurrection City there from May 12 to June 24, 1968, demanding jobs, housing and an economic bill of rights.

In other King Day activities, housing rights groups are stepping up the drive to occupy foreclosures, and teachers and community groups are demonstrating against school “turnarounds.”

Over a thousand community activists are expected for an Occupy the Dream event (Sunday, January 15 at 3 p.m. at People’s Church, 941 W. Lawrence), where elected officials will be called on to support jobs and tax reform, including closing corporate tax loopholes and instituting a financial transaction tax.

It’s sponsored by IIRON, a regional organizing network that includes Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation, Northside POWER, and the Northwest Indiana Federation. Occupy Chicago has endorsed the event.

“We are organizing in the tradition of the civil rights movement,” said Rev. Dwight Gardner of Gary, president of the Northwest Indiana Federation.

“In Dr. King’s very last sermon, he warned us not to sleep through a time of great change like Rip Van Winkle,” he said. “This is a moment of great change and we must put our souls in motion to occupy his dream.”

At the Fed: National Day of Action

Monday’s action at the Federal Reserve (Jackson and LaSalle, January 16, 3 p.m.) is part of a national day of action to “Occupy the Fed” by the Occupy the Dream campaign, with African American church leaders moblizing multicultural, interfaith rallies in 13 cities.  They’ll be emphasizing racially discriminatory practices by banks which have resulted in high foreclosure rates, as well as the issue of student debt.

“There needs to be economic equality, there needs to be jobs for all, there needs to be opportunities for the next generation,” said Rev. Jamal Bryant of Occupy the Dream.

“It’s consistent with the Poor People’s Campaign of holding people accountable who have benefited from the labor of working people and used their influence to create inequality,” said Rev. Otis Moss III of Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago coordinator of the effort.

On Tuesday, Northside POWER and other groups will visit Bank of America (135 S. LaSalle) at 3:30 p.m. to demand help for a North Side family facing foreclosure; the bank has refused mediation for the family, which has applied for the Hardest Hit foreclosure relief program, said Kristi Sanford.

They’ll also visit Attorney General Lisa Madigan, demanding she withdraw from the proposed settlement of the robosigning fraud case by state attorney generals and the U.S. Department of Justice.  The settlement would fine banks “a pittance” and absolve them of all liability, Sanford said.  Attorney generals in New York and California have withdrawn.

Sanford said an effort to occupy a foreclosed home and launch an eviction resistance campaign is also underway.

Working the grassroots against eviction

Meanwhile, groups organizing against foreclosure and eviction have come together in the national network Occupy Our Homes, and they’ll go door-to-door Sunday and Monday, reaching out to families facing foreclosure and their neighbors.

Training sessions for canvassers will be held on Sunday, January 15 at 10 a.m. in Albany Park (at Centro Autonomo, 3630 W. Lawrence) and Monday at 10 a.m. on the South Side (Sankofa Center, 1401 E. 75th) and the West Side (a foreclosed property at 2655 W. Melvina and the Third Unitarian Church, 311 N. Mayfield), and volunteers will canvass those areas from 11 to 3 on the respective days.

Homeowners will be connected with legal resources and encouraged to consider staying in their homes after foreclosure, said Loren Taylor of Occupy Our Homes.

The foreclosure process is unfairly stacked toward lenders, banks have engaged in “massive, massive fraud,” and the banks which refuse to help homeowners have received government bailouts in the trillions of dollars, Taylor said.

Participating groups include the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign, Communities United Against Foreclosure and Eviction, and the Albany Park Neighborhood Council, which has worked with renters in foreclosed buildings.

School marches mark King’s Chicago legacy

Also Monday, demonstrations against educational inequality – and against school “turnarounds” – will take place in areas made famous by Martin Luther King’s 1966 Chicago campaign.

At 10:30 a.m., the Chicago Teachers Union and community allies will march for education justice and “quality schools for all” at Marquette Elementary, 6550 S. Richmond, just south of the park where King was hit by a brick while marching for fair housing in 1966.

Today the school is 99 percent black and Latino – and slated for a “turnaround” by Academy of Urban School Leadership (AUSL). CTU argues that all schools should have small class sizes, a well-rounded curriculum, and supportive services.

From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Monday, Blocks Together and other supporters of Casals Elementary, 3501 W. Potomac, will go door-to-door to inform neighbors of parent efforts to stop the transfer of that school to AUSL.

And at 1 p.m. on Monday, North Lawndale residents including members of Action Now will hold a press conference and march from Dvorak Elementary, 3615 W. 16th, past the site where King lived in Lawndale in 1966, to Herzl Elementary, 3711 W. Douglas.  They’re opposing Herzl’s “turnaround” by AUSL – and they fear Dvorak is next, said Aileen Kelleher of Action Now.

Parents maintain that CPS neglects neighborhood schools serving low-income minority children, setting them up for failure so they can be turned over to AUSL or charter schools, Kelleher said

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’99 Percent’ vs. CME tax break http://www.newstips.org/2011/10/99-percent-vs-cme-tax-break/ Tue, 25 Oct 2011 21:10:57 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=4856 CME has been successfully bidding for the attention of Illinois politicians – and now regular folks are starting to notice.

On Tuesday, a statewide allliance is protesting at City Hall and then marching to State Senate President John Cullerton’s office to protest his legislation granting a $50 million tax break to CME, owner of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Chicago Board of Trade.

On Wednesday, a coalition of community and labor groups will launch a campaign to derail CME’s tax break – and press for a small financial transaction tax on CME trades – with a march on protest at the Chicago Board of Trade and a stand with Occupy Chicago.

“It’s a shakedown,” said Mehrdad Azemun of National Peoples Action, of the new tax break.  NPA is one of several regional and statewide networks of community and church groups that are joining to protest the measure on Tuesday.

“Corporations as large as these need to pay their fair share, especially at a time when every day brings news of more cuts to state and city programs, more police stations being closed.”

He points out that just a few years ago, CME threatened to leave – and then promised to stay, after it received a $15 million TIF subsidy and millions more in property tax breaks.

“Our sense is that the state leaders and the Chicago mayor are just giving in to threat after threat,” he said.  “It’s really not a responsible way to govern – and it’s not a responsible way to run a budget.”

To Cullerton and Mayor Emanuel, who have made the tax break a top priority for the veto session, Rev. Marilyn Pagan Banks of Northside POWER said, “We are demanding that you reverse your position, and stop acting only for the 1 percent.  We need you to stand with the 99 percent.”

On Wednesday, the community-labor coalition Stand Up Chicago will march from the Chase Plaza at Dearborn and Monroe (starting at 11:45 a.m.) and join Occupy Chicago at LaSalle and Jackson for a press conference.  Members of Workers United will be donating winter wear and sleeping bags to Occupy Chicago.

Speakers will include Workers United president Noel Beasley.

They’ll proceed for more activity across the street to the Chicago Board of Trade, where they’ll protest Cullerton’s tax break and continue building a campaign for a financial transaction tax.

“In this age of austerity, it’s obvious that we can’t afford to be offering more tax breaks to corporations that are most assuredly in the black,” said Susan Hurley of Chicago Jobs with Justice, part of the Stand Up coalition.  (CME’s profits last year were over $950 million, and they’re even higher this year.)

“And we need to create tax instruments to generate funds to keep our ship of state afloat,” she added.

The transaction tax – just 25 cents on an average trade of $233,000 – would be charged to traders, not the exchanges themselves.  But with 12 million trades a day, the fee would generate over a billion dollars a year, supporters say.  (See our earlier report for more detail.)

Cullerton’s tax break would also apply to the Chicago Board of Options Exchange; with additional tax breaks in the legislation, its total cost could be $100 million a year.  The transaction tax would also apply to trades on the CBOE.

NPA’s Azemun and Stand’s Catherine Murrell said members of their coalitions would be contacting their legislators to oppose Cullerton’s bill.

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