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NY Workers to Albany: Tax Stock Buybacks Now!

New York, NY – Hey, Governor Cuomo! New York’s working class has a great way to help close that $4 billion budget gap you’re trying to plug before the end of the month — tax the fat cats that are literally making out like bandits now that the corporate tax rate has been slashed to an obscenely paltry 21-percent.

Can workers successfully push for a tax on stock buybacks?

“You can’t call yourself a progressive and be regressive on the economy,” PSC-CUNY President Barbara Bowen told a group of about 40 supporters in front of the New York Stock Exchange on Friday afternoon.

The last time the head of the union representing City University of New York faculty and staff was at the NYSE in December, she was being arrested protesting the $1.5 trillion birthday present Congress gleefully gave its corporate paymasters late last year.

At the time, corporate GOPers hoping to sugar the poison pill for the masses, promised companies would, of course  — and most definitely — also boost wages for employees.

“Guess what? Bowen said. “They didn’t. Are you surprised?”

Instead of boosting wages for workers, corporations including Pepsi, Walmart, Home Depot and the like, have commenced on a more than $147 billion stock buyback spending spree. The total thus far in 2018, is some $209 billion.

The scene outside the NYSE on Friday.

Pepsi spent $15 billion alone, while laying off 2,000 workers in the process. Lowe’s sunk $5 billion in stock buybacks and put 3,000 people out of work. Oracle spent $12 billion in stock buybacks and has, so far, laid off 200 workers. Walmart, Oracle, Carrier; the story is the same, according to the Strong Economy for All Coalition: massive buybacks that inflate the value of corporate stock; brutal layoffs that cripple working families.

“Every day, it seems the path to the middle class gets narrower and narrower,” Strong Economy for All Coalition Organizing Director Charles Kahn said. “When the GOP passed their tax bill, they claimed it would help workers — we haven’t seen much of that. For the poor and the middle class, this plan is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

To counteract the carnage, coalition members and supporters across the state are, this month, pushing Albany to adopt a tiny .5-percent tax on stock buybacks. The corporate levy would generate $2 billion annually for New York State and could be used to benefit public education, affordable housing and healthcare.

“We need to focus on regular New Yorkers, not millionaires,” Kahn continued. “We need to demand that Albany take action. Governor Cuomo says he’s looking for ways to mitigate the worse part of this tax bill…commonsense policies like this are exactly the way to do that.”

Astonishingly, New York State currently foregoes $14 billion a year in stock transfer taxes that are actually already on the books — but have not been enforced since the Reagan era.

“It’s not enough to be angry — we need change now,” Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou (D-WFP 65th District) said. “We can’t stand by and allow those at the top to keep pocketing dollars that should be going to healthcare, affordable housing and livable wages for all New York residents.”

In the last decade, while wages have, at best, remained stagnant — U.S. companies have spent a staggering $5.1 trillion buying up their own stock. Between 2007 and 2016, gold-plated companies in the S&P 500 spent more than half — 54-percent — of their profits on stock buybacks.

At the same time, working class families have continued to suffer. Per student spending at CUNY’s senior colleges, for instance, has dropped nearly 20-percent across the same time frame.

PSC-CUNY leader Barbara Bowen.

Retired Wall Street office manager Nathylin Flowers, 71, saw a lot of the stock buyback orgy up close. But for the last two years, she’s been living in a homeless shelter.

“While our state leaders are talking about billion-dollar deficits, Wall Street is swimming cash,” Flowers said. “Solving homelessness isn’t rocket science; it’s basic mathematics. New York State needs tax policies that make Wall Street pay their fair share, to ensure that we have the resources we need to solve our most pressing crises.”

The retired Wall Street accounting firm office manager is just one of 89,000 homeless people living in shelters throughout New York State. Between 2011 and 2015, statewide homelessness increased a staggering 41-percent.

Advocates hoping to deliver a mock $14 billion check to the NYSE on Friday, were instead met with belligerent and combative security people who denied them access.

“We’re not even asking these big corporations to pay the same taxes that we have to pay to buy a pack of gum,” Assembly Member Niou continued. “We are only asking them to pay a fraction of a fraction of their purchase.”

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