Tax Day brings Occupy tax protesters in St. Pete
As people hurried into the main post office in St. Petersburg to file their taxes before tonightâs midnight deadline, 40 people stood outside waving signs demanding tax equality. The protesters representing at least three different advocacy groups said itâs 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.
âAnd 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 theyâre not paying any taxes and theyâre getting refunds on their taxes â more than you and I would â thatâs not fair to average Americans.â
Carrol Denton supports the Occupy movement. Heâs also a disabled senior who has watched the nationâs tax laws transform into something he doesnât like.
âWell, when I was a kid, the rich paid 90% in taxes and now they pay basically nothing â if theyâve got a good tax man.â
But the idea wasnât just to blast what this group sees as an unfair tax code.
âI donât like the way my taxes are being spent.â
Jasmine Carter doesnât like it either. Sheâs worried that too money is being spent on the military.
âA lot of our tax dollars go right into the Pentagon and they have no one there that is auditing their services, making sure theyâre spending their money in a way that suits everybody here or suits anybody at all except them.â
And even though he didnât 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. isnât doing a very good job of allocating taxpayer money.
âYouâre on unemployment; youâre 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 youâre not looking for work, you canât be unemployment. But youâre trying to get the training to take the jobs. Oh wait, you canât get paid because youâre in training, you canât be looking for work. But if youâre looking for work for jobs that arenât there or jobs that youâre not qualified for, oh wait, weâll 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 isnât happy that the Senate rejected what the president called âa common sense ideaâ.
âAs Warren Buffett said, heâs paying less in his tax rate than his secretary is. And even he doesnât agree with it. And youâve got most of the millionaires in the country that donât agree with this system, but whoâs going to change it because some people donât want to change it in Congress? I donât 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 Networkâs Peggy Goodale doesnât see a problem with that.
âWhen we paid more taxes, the country thrived. People who pay taxes â rich people that pay taxes â they donât even notice it really. I mean, I donât 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. Thereâs all kinds of things that are going on that, really, arenât fair and itâs kind of â I canât even say itâs just an attack on the middle class, itâs 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.
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