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New York – Low-income New Yorkers from around the city came together on the Upper East Side today to rally for economic fairness and passage of the ‘Buffett Rule,’ which would impose a higher minimum tax bracket for people making more than $1 million annually. Chanting, they marched to the homes of three members of the 1% — a hedge fund executive and two Big Bank board members.
“While I fear losing my housing and food pantry, hedge fund managers like Schwarzman pay zero in local taxes,” said Wayne Starks, VOCAL Board Member, who said he had first been diagnosed with HIV in 1986. “While I worry about where my grandchildren will go to after school, bankers like Thomas Montag and Susan Engel refuse to support the Buffett Rule. It isn’t right. For 17 years I worked as a city bus driver and paid my fair share. I wasn’t offered any loopholes and neither should the 1%.”
The rally and march started at 77th Street and Lexington Ave and followed a weekend of actions across the country, where scores of people trained in non-violent direct action through the ‘99% Spring.’ It also comes one day before Tax Day, when thousands of New Yorkers and allies around the country are expected to take to the streets to demand economic justice.
“It’s like patriotism only applies to the 99% and not the 1%,” said Euline Williams, a CVH member and Manhattan resident. “We are in a revenue crisis because these wealthy bankers that are making billions aren’t paying their share, and we hope more New Yorkers will join us in the streets to demand that these bankers ‘be like Buffett!’”
On Saturday, some 150 demonstrators marched to the Upper East Side home of Bruce Kovner, a billionaire hedge fund manager who takes advantage of tax loopholes to pay a smaller rate than the 99%. As they did today and expect to do tomorrow, protestors on Saturday called for passage of the Buffett Rule as a way to address the ailing national budget.
Today, protestors visited the home of Steven Schwarzman, CEO of Blackstone Group, a hedge fund that manages $119 billion. Blackstone managers pay only a 15% tax on their buyouts, while individual income is taxed at rates up to 35%. Next, they visited Thomas Montag, President of Global Banking & Markets at BofA Merrill Lynch and a Board Member of BlackRock, which earned billions in 2011. Blackrock has spent several hundred thousand dollars lobbying for the change in NY State law that allows it to be taxed as a regular corporation rather than as a bank. The impact to the NYC budget is estimated to be between $5 million and $10 million starting next year. Finally, they visited the home of Susan Engel, Board Director at Wells Fargo Bank. The protestors argue that Wells Fargo needs to pay the statutorily required 35% corporate income tax and stop using offshore tax shelters and other corporate tax loopholes.
Huge numbers of New Yorkers are expected to take the street tomorrow — Tax Day — to call for tax fairness.
VOCAL-NY is a grassroots membership organization building power among low-income New Yorkers affected by HIV/AIDS, mass incarceration and the war on drugs in order to create healthy and just communities.