Tax Day brings Occupy tax protesters in St. Pete listen04/17/12 Janelle Irwin
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As people hurried into the main post office in St. Petersburg to file their taxes before tonightâ€™s midnight deadline, 40 people stood outside waving signs demanding tax equality. The protesters representing at least three different advocacy groups said itâ€™s not fair that wealthy individuals and corporations have access to tax credits and loopholes that often let them pay a lower tax rate than the middle class. Jasmine Carter, a member of Occupy St. Pete and Awake the State, said instead tax incentives should help the working class.
â€œAnd if we have people that are making millions and millions and millions of dollars and their corporations are making millions and billions of dollars and theyâ€™re not paying any taxes and theyâ€™re getting refunds on their taxes â€“ more than you and I would â€“ thatâ€™s not fair to average Americans.â€
Carrol Denton supports the Occupy movement. Heâ€™s also a disabled senior who has watched the nationâ€™s tax laws transform into something he doesnâ€™t like.
â€œWell, when I was a kid, the rich paid 90% in taxes and now they pay basically nothing â€“ if theyâ€™ve got a good tax man.â€
But the idea wasnâ€™t just to blast what this group sees as an unfair tax code.
â€œI donâ€™t like the way my taxes are being spent.â€
Jasmine Carter doesnâ€™t like it either. Sheâ€™s worried that too money is being spent on the military.
â€œA lot of our tax dollars go right into the Pentagon and they have no one there that is auditing their services, making sure theyâ€™re spending their money in a way that suits everybody here or suits anybody at all except them.â€
And even though he didnâ€™t want to mention any names, Leon Stark mocked a certain presidential candidate who he said has more money than anyone needs. That frustrates Stark who has been without work for two years and recently lost his unemployment benefits. That system, he said, is another example of how the U.S. isnâ€™t doing a very good job of allocating taxpayer money.
â€œYouâ€™re on unemployment; youâ€™re supposed to be looking for work. If you try to get training to be able to get the jobs that are being offered, oh no, you have to have someone to support you because youâ€™re not looking for work, you canâ€™t be unemployment. But youâ€™re trying to get the training to take the jobs. Oh wait, you canâ€™t get paid because youâ€™re in training, you canâ€™t be looking for work. But if youâ€™re looking for work for jobs that arenâ€™t there or jobs that youâ€™re not qualified for, oh wait, weâ€™ll pay you.â€
Protesters ranged in age from their early-twenties to their late-eighties. But despite the generational gap, each was equally angry about who pays what and where it goes. Bill Hurley, a spokesperson for Occupy St. Pete, supports the Buffett rule. It would have required millionaires to pay a minimum 30% tax rate. Hurley isnâ€™t happy that the Senate rejected what the president called â€œa common sense ideaâ€.
â€As Warren Buffett said, heâ€™s paying less in his tax rate than his secretary is. And even he doesnâ€™t agree with it. And youâ€™ve got most of the millionaires in the country that donâ€™t agree with this system, but whoâ€™s going to change it because some people donâ€™t want to change it in Congress? I donâ€™t know why. Maybe we need to replace some people in Congress so they think more like the 99% do.â€
Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney was criticized for paying less than 15% on his 2010 taxes. He was able to do that because much of his income came from investments that are taxes at far lower rates than earned income. The Buffett Rule would have required a 3.8% tax on unearned income. Florida Consumer Action Networkâ€™s Peggy Goodale doesnâ€™t see a problem with that.
â€œWhen we paid more taxes, the country thrived. People who pay taxes â€“ rich people that pay taxes â€“ they donâ€™t even notice it really. I mean, I donâ€™t know how many houses they have to have. But I talk to people that have small businesses that are suffering â€“ and I mean really small business, not what the government is calling small business. Thereâ€™s all kinds of things that are going on that, really, arenâ€™t fair and itâ€™s kind of â€“ I canâ€™t even say itâ€™s just an attack on the middle class, itâ€™s an attack on the poor too. The poor are suffering greatly.â€
There were two tax preparation services across the street from the post office and the protesters. A giant blow-up statue of liberty was in front of one of them. Someone â€“ though none took credit â€“ placed a sign on it that called for fair taxes for everyone.