Face it – sometimes, organizing a national protest can cost too much.
That doesn’t mean you can’t use your money to participate in one particular new demonstration, though. In fact, all you have to do is grab a pen, scribble on the cash you already carry, and spend those dollars the way you already do
And given the general theme of this national protest, there probably isn’t any better way to get the message across.
“This is $1 more than GE, Bank of America or Exxon has paid in taxes,” are the words encouraged to be signed upon your singles. You can personalize it, too, by including the favorite of all your least-favorite elected officials: “Recall [enter name here].”
Created by “The Hippies Were Right” group (now under Hippies United Globally), “America’s $1 Bill Protest” started this week to protest the inappropriate corporate tax policies of the U.S.
The companies specified in the message are juicy examples of big corporations squeaking out on big taxes. General Electric profited $14.2 billion in 2010, $5.1 billion coming from the U.S. alone, but the Connecticut-headquartered company didn’t pay a dime in U.S. corporate taxes for that year’s profit; in fact, the company claimed a tax credit of $3.2 billion. BoA claimed a billion-dollar tax credit last year, too. Exxon did pay $15.1 billion in taxes for ’09’s $45 billion in profit – but that was to other countries; not a dime went to the IRS, which somehow gave the oil company a $1.1 billion credit that same year.
And those companies are just a handful of ones that get away with it. In fact, a 2008 report from the Government Accountability Office revealed that two-thirds of U.S. corporations were allowed to skip out on federal taxes for as long as seven successive years.
Meanwhile, Republicans in congress continue to hit up for even more corporate tax breaks (and cuts to taxes imposed on individual wealth, too), while Middle Class America foots the bill. Corporations are far from proper tax payments; individual everyday folks are left out of the arrangement because of their own taxation rates.
The GOP is actively arguing to leave our country at a standstill, too; take the recent standoff at the Capitol regarding a debt ceiling. After delaying vote in hopes of stifling Democratic opposition, the House GOP rammed through a budget cutting away from many basic programs. The Senate quickly rejected the bill, but Republican senators immediately began filibustering to delay any other budget plan.
And this leaves the country at risk of default if nothing’s achieved by August 2. Basic rights like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and even veterans’ benefits could come to a blunt stop. At the same time, though, and already occurring because of Republican delays, the FAA is losing $30 million every day in taxes it now can’t collect from airlines.
This is happening on the state level, too. For example, the Minnesota GOP recently voted to lower state corporate taxes and, at the same time, to remove the state’s tax credit policy on lower income residents.
“All we are saying….”
That’s why Hippies United Globally came up with this project, according to Shanon Molina, the group’s campaign director and treasurer. If the corporations are living large, then We the People need to be heard before we’re forced to skinny down any further.
These unfair practices have set a negative sentiment throughout our society, too. Through such corporatist policies and governmental actions, nowadays “it’s all about who has the most money, the nicest house, the most toys,” Molina offers.
“Our sense of ‘community’ is gone. This country is not united; it’s every man for himself. When a family member or friend asks for help in a time of crisis, most people would help in a heartbeat. But the minute it is the neighbor, someone down the street or across town … compassion and caring go out the window.”
The current woes of budget and potential default, though, could provide avenue to restore community – to reunite the public for a common cause – and to see some positive results in the long run.
“For this protest,” Molina says, “my hope is that enough bills will be written on that it grabs media attention and continues to prove that the majority – contrary to what the GOP keeps feeding the mainstream media – is for shared sacrifice.
“I hope (“America’s $1 Bill Protest”) continues to shed uncomfortable light on the fact these multimillion-dollar (prospering) companies are taking advantage of the people of this country,” says Molina. “They are taking our money!”
“…is give [HUG] a chance”
A political action committee might not seem the venue in which you’d find any tie-dye or love beads, but that didn’t stop Hippies United Globally from forming its own. Its acronym alone makes up for that contrast, though, and even with a “hippie” message of peace and love. Yup, meet the HUG PAC.
Along with an executive director known (psychedelically) as “Cosmic Scotty,” Molina formed the group just this past June. Molina is campaign director and treasurer of the PAC.
Even though HUG PAC is still very new, it already has a sizable and very active following online.
All this started when Molina created “The Hippies Were Right” this past May, and simply as a facebook group for like-minded liberals and progressives.
The “hippie” theme seemed most appropriate, she says, offering an explanatory quote from head hippie honcho Abbie Hoffman: “The key to organizing an alternative society is to organize people around what they can do, and more importantly, what they want to do.”
The local news of international relevance that stemmed from HUG’s Dairy State home, pertaining to organized labor, workers’ rights and collective bargaining, was a starting seed. “I’m an activist,” she says, “so I’ve been involved in the Wisconsin protests since day one.”
HUG quickly sprouted through organization of online protests with that original facebook page. A July 3rd “internet flash mob” took place, challenging Molina’s homestate representative, Paul Ryan. “There were roughly 700 comments posted (to Ryan’s facebook page) in two hours.”
That high-volume response inspired Molina to drop a fb flash mob on another notorious congressperson shortly after, which got even bigger results. “The second was Michelle Bachmann ,” a U.S. representative and GOP presidential candidate who’s gaining infamous notoriety in national news of late. And the response to online demonstration number two? “Over 2,000 comments posted in one hour,” Molina says.
Shortly after, HUG took on House Majority Whip Eric Cantor’s facebook page, which got the kind of response that most hippies only dream of. “Over 5,000 comments posted,” Molina says. “It actually took down his facebook page for about 30 minutes due to so many people trying to post at the same time.”
(See a video about the Bachmann online protest here; click here to see one about the Cantor flash mob.)
With so much participation growing at a rapid rate, improving the movement to the level of a solid, concrete, bona fide PAC seemed like the next step. “The page took off, and talk of a movement started, so I kind of felt like it was a calling.”
HUG PAC is still in baby-step stages, Molina reminds herself, and even though the group is still growing in attention across the country. “We are new, small and still finding our way.”
But that doesn’t mean Hippies United Globally isn’t taking on new challenges. “Our main focus right now is the re-election of (state) Sen. Bob Wirch,” a Democrat from Wisconsin’s 22nd senate district.
Wirch was one of 14 state senators who temporarily left the state to delay vote on a bill that would have ended collective bargaining rights of state employees. A conservative group calling itself “Taxpayers to Recall Robert Wirch” filed petition in April, calling for another election on August 16.
“After that, we plan to zone in on unseating Paul Ryan in 2012,” says Molina, who supports Democratic challenger Rob Zerban. “We also intend to assist in the recall of Gov. Scott Walker.”
The movement is gearing Molina personally, too. “I have even changed my college major from Sociology to Political Science.”
“To everything (turn, turn, turn)”
This latest HUG PAC project is taking a new turn, that’s for sure. A message on money is far different from a facebook flash mob event, after all. And the “American $1 Bill Protest” can extend much farther through this different method, too, succeeding just as much as HUG’s earlier projects.
Within 24 hours after first announcement, 1,775 signed up to participate on HUG’s facebook invite, Molina says. “Who knows how many people have since heard by word of mouth or just didn’t RSVP who will participate?” That fb number is now doubled, just four days after its original posting.
By the way, this demonstration isn’t limited in duration, either, even though its online invite says it will be over at the end of October. “The end date is due to facebook restrictions,” Molina says. “Events can’t be longer than four months.” In other words, don’t think this is just a temporary project.
Flower (and dollar) Power
How effective can this project be? Well, just consider the volume. There are billions of one dollar bills in circulation, according to the U.S. Treasury.
And each one of those Georgie Boy singles can take place in tens of thousands of transactions throughout its 22-month average lifespan, too.
That means your message can pass through millions of fingers just by everyday money transactions. And before long, you’ll have helped get this vital message across to practically everyone.
And it’s so easy to do, too. “This type of protest allows people to take part from their own homes,” says Molina.
“It gives them a sense of being part of a bigger movement, and it gets out a very clear message.”
But is there a risk? Well, there is that funky little law about “defacing currency,” but … that law only applies if a dollar bill is damaged to a point that makes it unusable, removing it from circulation. Simple message-bearing dollars are common, however, and even quite popular (see some classics here).
And true “hippies” would never pass up opportunity for civil disobedience in peaceful protest, now would they?
“Come together …. right now”
So what are you waiting for? Take your magic marker to a fistful of dollars, sign up to the group’s event page, and keep the message moving!
And be sure to tell others about the “American $1 Bill Protest” and its Hippies United Globally sponsor, too.