If Donald Trump started going on tourm marketing a campaign to "fix the housing crisis" that involved evicting tenants of Section 8 housing to incorporate into his own real estate empire, he would rightly be laughed off of the stage and ridiculed relentlessly for his greedy, predatory behavior against the most vulnerable. The same thing happened to Honeywell CEO David Cote this week.
Cote is one of the leading voices of the "Fix The Debt" campaign, which argues that the federal deficit needs to be addressed before anything else, and that deficit reduction should primarily come from Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries. Fix The Debt has already been exposed as a front group for the world's richest war profiteers to protect their billion-dollar Pentagon contracts, and the world's worst corporate tax dodgers to protect their egregious loopholes and gimmicks in the U.S. tax code.
Honeywell is a leading tax dodger and war profiteer, having secured $1.5 billion in defense contracts in 2012, and paying a -0.7 federal income tax rate between 2008 and 2010. Honeywell is sitting on an impressive $39.8 billion in assets and is the 33rd largest recipient of tax dollars out of the top 100 military contractors. So it's pretty ballsy for a CEO of a corporation that got money back from Uncle Sam instead of paying taxes, to insist that retirees and the disabled pay down the national debt before he loses any of his billions.
Cote took his message to Manchester, N.H., on Monday, Feb. 11, and was shut down by grannies and veterans. Just minutes into Cote's speech, activists with the Flip the Debt campaign and US Uncut New Hampshire began loudly informing the audience about Honeywell's obscenely low tax rate and handing out information to other attendees, while disabled workers and elderly retirees ceremoniously handed Cote their Social Security checks. One attendee was heard saying, "I only get $1,200 a month to live on, but you need another yacht."
The tide is turning against tax dodgers. Bernie Sanders has been vocal about ending offshore tax havens, citing Verizon's $705 million refund from the IRS despite making $11 billion in profits during 2010. Bill Clinton recently used his ex-president bully pulpit to call on corporations to repatriate their trillions in offshore profits. And while his Republican colleagues are balking at the coming March sequester austerity package they themselves created in the debt ceiling farce of 2011, Rep. Dave Camp is warming up to the idea of taxing derivatives (he wants to use the revenue gained to reduce top tax rates, but it's a start).
As we universally reject austerity, we have to simultaneously champion progressive alternative solutions to the budgetary problems we face. One solution is the Balancing Act, championed by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) of the progressive caucus. His plan would offset the 10-year, $948 billion in across-the-board cuts that the sequester requires with closing loopholes and deductions exploited mainly by corporations and the super rich. Ellison's plan would close the carried interest loophole used by Mitt Romney, the corporate jet loophole, offshore loopholes, as well as ending fossil fuel subsidies and other numerous gifts in the tax code for those who have more than enough to pay the difference.
Awareness of the unfair tax code that relieves a burden from those who have the most and shifting it to those who can barely scrape by has spread all over America, and Congress will soon have no choice but to acknowledge it. And in the midst of this new awakening, laughable greed-inspired campaigns like Fix the Debt are fading into the realm of irrelevance and obscurity.