US public radio explores the UK UnCut movement
As the programme notes from the outset, a large part of the reason why the UnCut protesters have received such widespread public support (something we can attest to from our own experiences of participating at their events) is that they are hitting a very sensitive nerve: the Conservative-led UK government talks the talk of fairness - "we are all in this together" - but walks an entirely different walk. The public is not fooled by the rhetoric. As UK UnCut's Danielle Wright puts it:
"The poorest are being disproportionately hit by the austerity measures and the cuts, and rich business and rich individuals are getting away with not contributing to the society of which they are a part."
Nor are the British public easily taken in by the lazy arguments of right-wingers like Philip Booth of the Institute of Economic Affairs, a pro-tax haven lobby organisation, who claim the rich only cheat on taxes because the rates are so high:
"Very large numbers of households on quite low incomes do arrange their tax affairs to save themselves tax, obviously not as much as Philip Green saves through his schemes, but then they're earning less in the first place."
Most normal households in Britain pay their income tax on a pay as you earn basis and very, very few will incur an inheritance tax liability. Philip Booth's idea of what constitutes a low income household is probably quite out of synch with reality.
But the question remains: is there scope for a similar movement in the US? The circumstances in the USA are similar to those in the UK; decades of public services cuts, a massive shift of the tax charge from rich people onto middle and low income households, and wholesale tax cheating by larger businesses and the wealthy elites. As TJN's John Christensen puts it, the tax avoidance industry has been responsible for an extraordinary shift of the tax burden:
"It's shifted the tax charge away from corporates and away from rich individuals onto the backs of middle income and poorer people. This has greatly increased inequality here in Britain and arguably in the United States and elsewhere."
Last year the Tea Party movement dominated American politics with its anti-tax agenda. But with its widening deficit, the serious risk of major cities going bankrupt, and levels of inequality and social immobility that put paid to the idea of the American Dream, the time seems ripe in the US for a totally different agenda based on tax justice.
You can listen to the programme here.