On January 30, members of Occupy Wall Street joined together with seniors, union members and community groups to challenge the influential Wall Street front group known as "Fix The Debt" that has been pushing for increased austerity measures in the US in the name of reducing the national deficit.
The protesters marched to the famous "National Debt Clock" near the IRS building on 44th and 6th Ave and unveiled their own colorful debt clock that said, "Hey 1%! Want to Fix The Debt? Pay Your Damn Taxes!". This alternative debt clock displayed the total amount that the 1% and corporations have stolen from the US budget by exploiting tax loopholes, tax havens and tax cuts.
The number? A staggering $2.3 trillion.
The protest action, called Flip The Debt, aims to "flip the debate" over the national debt on and shift the focus onto who is actually responsible for the massive national deficit: global corporations and super wealthy that have rigged the system to avoid paying their fair share.
In coordination with the protest, the group launched an animated version of the Debt Clock on-line which shows the massive debt of the 1% growing in real time. Within two days, their Facebook page already had received over 3,000 Facebook 'likes' and photos of the protest had received hundreds of shares.
These actions were part of a nationwide day of action happening in 50 cities.
A simultaneous action in Boston included a street performance featuring a finely dressed wall street executive with a pig's head, dancing to a parody of Kanye West's "Gold Digger".
The “Fix the Debt” Campaign is the latest incarnation of a multi-decade effort by wealthy Wall Street investors to cut back core social support programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Ironically, many of its members–General Electric, Bank of America, Verizon, Boeing–are themselves guilty of not paying taxes.
"It's incredible that these super wealthy CEOs are demanding we balance the budget on the backs of working people, when they won't even pay a fair share of taxes themselves," said Ben Master of United NY, one of the organizations calling for the actions. "But I guess the sheer gall of Wall Street shouldn't surprise anyone anymore."
The $2.3 trillion figure that the group is using comes from two numbers. First, the US has had to borrow over $1 trillion to pay for the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts for people with incomes incomes over $250,000. Second, since 2001 global corporations (many of them members of Fix The Debt) have dodged about $100 billion in taxes a year, using loopholes and offshore tax havens. The $2.3 trillion they have evaded is actually larger in size than the total number of cuts, $1.6 trillion, that Congress is debating and Fix the Debt is arguing for. Meanwhile, the $100 billion a year that corporations have evaded in taxes continues to grow daily.
"There's two problems. First, these corporations are trying to avoid taxes. Second, the taxes we do have are being wasted on war." Said Joe Therrien, a member of Occupy Wall Street. "If we going to make cuts anywhere, it should be to wasteful pentagon spending, not basic services."
A protester carrying the debt clock, Morgan Jenness, summed it up, "We need to stop using our resources to destroy other countries, and instead use them to build our own."
The event was called for by United NY. The giant debt clock was created by The People's Puppets of Occupy Wall Street.