Washington Community Action Network Talks Rights

by: Posted on: May 08, 2013

Editor’s Note: Rachael DeCruz of Washington Community Action Network and the Seattle-King County NAACP speaks to the conflict between people’s right to housing, health care, education and equal opportunity, and the rights of corporate people. As she says, “It is time to elevate individuals’ rights over corporate rights and ensure that our democracy is accountable to the people.”

By Rachael DeCruz, Washington Community Action Network


In our neighborhoods and our communities, families are feeling the impact of the economic crisis. Unemployment is high, there are over 1 million uninsured people in Washington State, and millions of families throughout the country are facing foreclosure. Our current economic system prioritizes the wealthy and large corporations at the expense of everyday individuals and families. As a result, peoples’ right to housing, to health care, and to quality education are currently at stake.

Washington Community Action Network (CAN) is a statewide grassroots community organization fighting for racial, social and economic justice at the state and federal level. The families that we work with on a daily basis are facing impossible choices. Families are being forced to choose between putting food on the table and seeing the doctor or between affording their prescriptions and keeping the lights on. These are choices that no family should have to make and that threaten the right to housing, health care and a quality education.

While the majority of families and individuals are feeling the burden of the economic crisis in some way, shape, or form, large corporations continue to bring in record profits, provide lavish CEO salaries and benefits, and benefit from extensive tax breaks and loopholes. Corporate rights continue to be prioritized over individuals’ rights. Corporations’ “right” to tax breaks come at the expense of hard working families and communities. Every time our state provides a tax break to a large corporation, we are losing revenue that could fund education, health care access, and other vital social service programs. Given our state’s continual budget deficit, this is revenue we cannot afford to give away.

Despite corporations’ “personhood,” they don’t abide by the same rules as the rest of us. We all pay taxes. Our taxes fund public education, the roads we drive on, the libraries we read in and important services that keep us all safe and healthy. Yet even though corporations are required to pay federal taxes (the federal corporate tax rate is 35%), and often local taxes, many of the big players have wielded their “rights” to rig the system to their advantage.

Offshore tax havens, tax loopholes and billions of dollars in lobbying have allowed some of the largest and most profitable corporations to get away with paying an effective negative income tax rate. This means that in addition to not paying taxes, they are actually receiving money back from the federal government.

The “Dirty Thirty,” refers to large corporations that collectively earned tens of billions in profits between 2008 and 2010 but paid no taxes during that three-year period. These 30 corporations (click here for a full report detailing more information about the “Dirty Thirty”) received $10.6 billion in tax rebates from the federal government, while skirting a total of $67.9 billion in taxes they would have paid had they paid the statutory 35%.

Wells Fargo made over $49 billion between 2008 and 2010. They received $680 million in tax credits and rebates, paying an effective federal income tax rate of -1.4% that includes $17.9 billion in tax subsidies received by the corporate giant, (see “Representation without Taxation”). Wells Fargo also spent $11 million lobbying within that time frame.

Right now, a corporate front group called “Fix the Debt” is campaigning to lower tax rates on the rich and create/extend corporate tax loopholes. While they are pouring money into lobbying to avoid paying taxes, they are also calling on Congress to cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security – the programs that provide health care, stability and security to hard working and middle class families.

The “rights” that undergird corporate tax breaks conflict with the rights of seniors, kids, and families. The “rights” that empower large corporations to pour big dollars into lobbying are a clear assault on individuals’ right to equally participate in our democracy.

Corporate “personhood” and lobbying is a direct threat to the rights of individuals throughout our state and our country. Prioritizing the rights of large corporations causes individuals’ voices and needs to be sidelined, creating a dynamic in which Congress is representing special interests instead of their constituents. Caught in the crosshairs are people’s rights. Here in Washington, people’s right to housing, to health care, to education and to equal opportunity are diminishing. Washington CAN! is dedicated to fighting on behalf of low-income families, and communities of color, since these are the people most impacted by the increase in corporate power. It is time to elevate individuals’ rights over corporate rights and ensure that our democracy is accountable to the people.

Photo: Washington Community Action Network

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