Last week, Paul and I went to an Occupy Wall Street working group about getting money out of politics. Paul’s been involved with the movement to end corporate personhood for a while and he’s done quite a bit of work on the constitutional amendments floating around. He’s even written an amendment of his own. I’ve been working on an ongoing research project about the movement for my research for media activism class, so I went as an observer.
The meeting itself was incredibly fascinating from a research perspective. There are so many different ideas being tossed around about getting money out of politics. Some people at the meeting want to pass a constitutional amendment ending corporate personhood. Some are 100% behind purely publicly financed elections. And there were the radical opinions about the constitutionality of income taxes.
The takeaway from the meeting was really that there is a lot of anger and frustration about the amount of money in politics, but there is little agreement on what to do. There was, however, one thing on the agenda and that was a tax day rally in front of the main post office in New York City. The event was supposed to be about the corporate tax rate compared to individual tax rates. With so many people heading into the post office to mail their tax returns off to the IRS, it seemed like a great way to build support for the movement.
So, I went over to the James Farley Post Office this afternoon to check things out. Turns out there were two different rallies going on, both Occupy, but with different aims. The first, which was held right in front of the post office, was protesting the use of tax dollars to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Rude Mechanical Orchestra marched to the post office along with Occupiers and they sang and chanted about tax day. My favorite refrain was, “How do you fix the deficit? End the wars and tax the rich!” Catchy, right?
I was surprised by this protest though, because I was expecting something different. At the Occupy working group, they had said the rally would be about the corporate tax rate, but besides a handful of signs, I didn’t see much focus on that issue. I was also surprised by the number of people there. I thought the event was going to be larger. There were plenty of cops on sight and one even said they were expecting between 500 and 2,500 protesters to show up. After hearing the same songs and chants a few times, I decided to pack it in, but as I walked down Eighth Avenue, I stumbled upon the other rally.
A block away, a lot more people had gathered and they were definitely making noise. This rally had organized speakers, many of whom spoke about the tax rates that corporation pay. And they had the Tax Dodgers! They were a bunch of guys wearing baseball uniforms that said “Tax Dodger” on the front and “1%” on the back. Along with a couple of cheerleaders, they sang about how corporations take advantage of loopholes. They even gave away free money! Sure, it was only a penny each, but that’s 100% genuine American currency.
I only had my camera phone with me, but I took a few pictures of the event. Enjoy!