Honeywell CEO Taken By Surprise By Anti-Austerity Activists
When Honeywell CEO David Cote arrived at Saint Anselm College, he had expected a warmer reception. As the host of Monday’s “Fix The Debt” campaign event, Cote, whose company has come under heavy scrutiny by corporate watchdogs and tax advocates for its use of offshore tax havens, spoke only for three minutes before activists from the “Flip The Debt” campaign interrupted him with a message of protest, before being escorted out by police.
“Fix the Debt claims to seek bipartisan solutions to reduce the deficit, but Fix the Debt is nothing more than a CEO lobby whose real objective is huge corporate tax breaks and drastic cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. David Cote and his CEO friends receive a lot from government: In 2011, Honeywell received $725 million in government deals, making it the 35th largest federal contractor. However, Honeywell and other companies pay next to nothing in taxes. Honeywell’s tax rate from 2008-2011 was 2 percent. Does anyone in this room pay 2 percent?” said Flip The Debt Organizer Matt Lawrence.
The protest comes as Cote and “Fix The Debt” have launched a public outreach campaign, seeking to encourage domestic austerity measures, citing specifically the need to make cuts to social programs such as Social Security and Medicaid. Opponents argue that, at a time where corporate profits are at all time high with tax rates on corporations and wealthy individuals at all time low, the financial troubles faced throughout the nation which many see as a result of industrial and financial market malfeasance, should not be a burden on average tax payers, but should be the responsibility of those whose wealth and influence continue to grow despite widespread malaise.
Mark Provost, another activist who is also involved with Us Uncut movement, sought to drive the same sentiment home in a Facebook post. The post was later re-published by miscellanyblue.com and Truth-Out.org.
In a later statement to The Progressive Press, Lawrence, a veteran Organizer with Occupy New Hampshire who helped organize the Flip The Debt protest, echoed the statement saying, “David Cote wants Americans to take a hit on their Social Security and Medicare benefits. What Americans need to ask themselves is why a multimillionaire is concerned with something he will likely get no use out of? Unfortunately the answer is not unexpected. He wants to preserve the preferential treatment his and other companies get in the form of tax breaks and loopholes, off-shore accounts and out-right tax-evasion.” He went on to issue condemnations of both Wall Street and elected officials he asserts to be under the influence of financial markets and corporate lobbyists.
“We need to send a message to Washington and their leash-holders on Wall Street. This is unacceptable and we will not pay for your gains.”
As debates over fiscal austerity and sequestration are building up to what many see to be the next in a series of showdowns over the nations growing debt problem, activists such as Lawrence and Provost are finding much to be concerned with. With substantial fundraising operations and well financed corporate backed coalition partners, “Fix The Debt,” is the most recent of a series of massive grassroots campaign efforts, aimed at persuading legislators and the American people to address what they claim a “debt crisis” caused by government spending. Yet in their efforts, CEOs such as Cote are forced to answer to bold and outspoken activists like Lawrence and Provost.
Following Flip The Debt’s interruption of Cote’s speech, New Hampshire Alliance For Retired Americans President Charlie Balban took advantage of the subsequent question and answer portion of the event, shaming Cote and “Fix The Debt” by saying “We should do something about the debt, but we don’t need to cut programs that people depend on. Instead of reducing the deficit on the backs of working Americans, corporations should pay taxes like the rest of us.”
“Flip The Debt” co-founder Gan Golan pledged in a statement to Truth-Out that the Flip The Debt plans to continue disrupting Fix The Debt events and activities nation wide. He added “Sustained public pressure against corporate tax dodgers in the UK has put the issue at the top of the agenda there, and we hope to do the same.” And with the growing public debate over just what share of the national debt belongs to whom, the fight to fix or flip the matter will likely remain a central theme to the events, discussions and arguments still to come.