Press-Republican

April 18, 2012

Group protests tax code on Tax Day

Dodgeball game targeted the 1%

JOE LoTEMPLIO
Press-Republican

PLATTSBURGH — As John Donoghue built up a sweat dodging the big blue balls heaved his way Tuesday night at Melissa L. Penfield Park, the catcalls rained down.

"Real corporations don't even have to put up this much effort to dodge their taxes," Ellen Lennon hooted.

"We're keeping the pressure on," Betty Lennon yelled.

"You feeling the heat?"

Donoghue, a good sport, agreed to be the stand-in target of the frustrated taxpayers, donning a white T-shirt with "1 percent" scrawled on the front and back.

He was playing the role of the 1 percent of the wealthiest people — namely corporations — in the country that have been the target of the 99 percent, who represent the middle class, over the several months.

"I'll do whatever I can to get the message across," said Donoghue, the president of the Plattsburgh and Saranac Lake Trades Council.

'UNFAIR TAX CODE'

The Tax Day Action Rally was put together by regional union leaders and citizens who are fed up with what they believe is an unfair tax code that rewards the wealthy corporations and punishes the middle class.

Mary Alice Shemo of MoveOn.org said major corporations have it easy compared to the working men and women in the United States when it comes to paying taxes.

"The corporations make huge campaign donations and they target the members of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee because they are the ones who write the tax codes," Shemo boomed into a microphone before the small gathering.

"They've got the best tax codes money can buy."

Shemo said the tax system is not only unfair to the middle-class workers, but to small businesses, the backbone of many local economies.

"Most business cannot afford a team of lawyers to help them with their taxes like the big corporations can," she said.

"It makes for an unlevel playing field."

'CLOSE LOOPHOLES'

Dylan Smith, the CVPH Medical Center representative of SEIU 1199, said corporate greed has gotten way out of control.

"Whether to have a 200-foot yacht or a 100-foot yacht are the kind of decisions these guys (big corporation officers) have to make," he said.

"Most people don't want to be millionaires. We just want to live a comfortable life and be part of a community."

Shemo said a proposal in the House known as the Buffett Rule, which calls for a tax rate of 30 percent for filers with annual earnings of more than $1 million, is a good start.

"If we can close the loopholes in our tax rates, too, I think that could help lower the tax rates, but citizens have to be more active in objecting to what is going on," she said.

North Country Congressman Bill Owens (D-Plattsburgh) was a co-sponsor of the Buffett Rule.

"A fair tax system cannot allow middle-class families to pay a higher tax rate than the very wealthiest Americans, plain and simple," Owens said in a statement.

"Responsible spending cuts and the Buffett Rule are good first steps toward a complete overhaul of the tax code and will allow Washington to take a balanced approach to debt reduction."

'THINLY DISGUISED'

Not everyone was in agreement.

Mark L. Barie, chairman and founder of the Upstate New York Tea Party, said the Buffett Rule would hurt Americans more than help.

"This is a thinly disguised effort to raise the capital-gains tax," he said in a statement.

"It will penalize our job creators, and it will shrink our economy."

Donoghue, the makeshift target for the dodgeball game, just hopes something positive can be done to help everyone.

"We are all part of the United States, and we should be united on this," he said.

Email Joe LoTemplio at: jlotemplio@pressrepublican.com