We outlined the connections Bill and Melinda Gates, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Microsoft have to profits from prisons in Part 1 here. Now we will connect these practices to the impact on our schools and offer some ways for others to join in resistance.
How do these stories impact our schools?
“Among the cuts approved by legislators: nearly $50 million from the Department of Corrections, including the closure of a prison facility; $50 million from K-12 education, including funding intended to keep class sizes small; $51 million from higher education, including at several of the state’s flagship universities; nearly $30 million from a state-subsidized health insurance program for the poor; and the elimination of non-emergency dental care for poor adults.”
What a trade off, huh? More cuts to education and social programs that benefit the poor while they pay out millions to prison industries and private prison operators – and give tax breaks to Boeing and Microsoft. Washington citizens are getting the shaft – especially their students and the poorest among them.” – Bob Sloan, Insourcing – Identifying Businesses Involved in Prison Labor or Supporting Those Who Are, The Daily Kos, (2010), (our emphasis)
Our schools and most vulnerable are starved as we see more spent on serving our prison populations than we do on our K-12 students. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s tax evasion is creating budget shortfalls that also hurt our most vulnerable. We’ve connected the dots and you can follow the money.
“Perhaps if states spent more money on educating students, they would not have to spend so much money keeping prisoners incarcerated.” – Rebecca Klein, This is How Much More States Spend on Prisoners Than on Students, Huff Post Politics (2014)
In a recent report by Kate Randall, US Prison Population Soars While Education Spending Plummets, Randall notes:
“State funding for prisons has dwarfed education spending. Adjusted for inflation, state spending for prisons grew by 141 percent from 1986 to 2013, while K-12 education spending rose by 69 percent, and higher education spending by merely 5.6 percent.” – Kate Randall, (November 2014)
But don’t the people arrested deserve to be in prison? Why are we including prisoners in a group of what we call “our most vulnerable”? Aren’t they guilty of major crimes against society?
“Ninety-seven percent of 125,000 federal inmates have been convicted of non-violent crimes. It is believed that more than half of the 623,000 inmates in municipal or county jails are innocent of the crimes they are accused of. Of these, the majority are awaiting trial. Two-thirds of the one million state prisoners have committed non-violent offenses. Sixteen percent of the country’s 2 million prisoners suffer from mental illness.” – Vicky Pelaez, The Prison Industry in the United States: Big Business or a New Form of Slavery?, Global Research, (2014)
But wait. Isn’t Bill Gates a humanitarian? Someone in the tech world sure thought so. Here is the beginning of his speech where he was honored with the James C. Morgan Global Humanitarian Award.:
“I come here tonight wearing two hats—as the chairman of Microsoft and as the co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. And so while I see a room full of customers, competitors, and partners, I want to talk to you as leaders—to discuss how we can bring technology to bear in reducing inequality and the suffering it causes.” – Bill Gates, The Tech Museum Speech, (2006), (emphasis ours)
He got one thing right. He definitely wears two hats.
Hat One: Humanitarian.
Hat Two: Profiteer from Racism and Human Suffering.
It may not be possible for him to consider the inhumanity of unfettered capitalism. We need to expose this inhumanity, shifting public opinion to one that tarnishes the shiny media image he has created for himself.
“There is a group of laborers that are paid way below minimum wage, and rival third world sweatshops. Corporations that make large amount of money, and save millions pay the workers low wages. These employees have been stripped, legally, of their political, economic and social rights. These second class citizens don’t have the right to unionize, are violently pressured into silence, they have no voice to even trigger change. These laborers are the 2.3 million American prisoners we can not see or hear. They are the new slaves. It isn’t a secret that the United States has a very high prison rate in comparison to its population. With just 5 percent of the world’s population, the US currently holds 25 percent of the world’s prisoners (Adam Liptak, NY Times). It also isn’t a hidden that the prison industry is big business, which brings in a lot of capital and employs many. The prison system has figured out a way to enforce this right under our noses.” – Queen, The New Slaves – The Prison Industry is Big Business, AFROPUNK, (2014)
Now we will connect the dots from the prisons to state budget cuts and directly to Bill Gates’/Microsoft’s tax dodging. As incarceration goes up, so do state budget cuts according to this article. Here are some terrible facts:
“The prison populations in most US states are at historic highs. Prisons in 36 US states incarcerate three times as many people as they did in 1978. State prison systems account for 87 percent of the total prisoner population, or roughly 1.3 million in 2013 compared to about 270,000 in 1978. But even as states spend more on prison operations, they are spending less on education for children and young adults, particularly in high-poverty neighborhoods.
A new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) paints a devastating picture of a polarized society in which the prison and police-military apparatus is being continually expanded while vital social programs are starved for funds. CBPP estimates that if state corrections spending had been held to mid-1980s levels, adjusted for inflation today the 50 US states would have about $28 billion more each year between them to allocate to non-prison related expenditures.
At least 30 states are spending less in general funding per student this year for K-12 schools than before the recession hit in 2008; 14 states have reduced funding by more than 10 percent. Spending cuts for higher education have been even deeper, with the average state spending 23 percent less per student since the recession. There is also a direct correlation between increased prison spending and education cuts, with many states with the highest incarceration rates making the deepest education cuts.” , – Kate Randall, US Prison Population Soars While Education Spending Plummets, (2014) (emphasis ours)
Reifman details the connection to Washington State’s Supreme Court’s McCleary ruling:
“In June, the Washington State Supreme Court ordered the Legislature to appear on September 3rd to explain why it hasn’t found the revenue to fully fund the education reforms required by its McCleary ruling, reportedly as much as $7.83 billion through 2019.
There are a variety of reasons the state has a huge education budget gap. After the 2008 recession, the Legislature cut $4 billion from K-12 and higher education spending, which helped absorb the costs of continuing tax breaks for corporations. While most states have an income tax to smooth revenue through downturns, voters rejected the creation of a progressive income tax in 2010. Then, last November, the Legislature awarded Boeing $8.7 billion in new tax breaks.
Locally, Boeing often takes a lot of flak for its tax breaks, but Microsoft has also played a central role in lobbying for tax breaks that cripple state education spending.
… Using the 50 percent figure, we can conservatively estimate Microsoft’s savings from lobbying and dodging the state royalty tax between 1997 and 2014 at $5.34 billion. If we factor in interest and the Department of Revenue’s typical 25 percent penalty on unpaid corporate taxes, that number jumps to $8.16 billion (see Scenario B).
This is more than enough to fully fund public education under the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision.
… These are also ethical issues. Chairman Bill Gates, former CEO Steve Ballmer and General Counsel Brad Smith are all public education advocates. In 2003, then-CEO Ballmer famously admonished taxpayers “… to come to grips with the notion that we need to invest in higher education.” Just not, it seems, corporate taxpayers.
The sophistication with which these men have manipulated the law and enforcement in Olympia has tremendously harmed our state and our schools, and undermined constructive dialogue over tax fairness. Ballmer and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos both fought the progressive income tax in 2010. In 2012, Smith suggested raising the sales tax was the best approach to fund education. I think the bourgeoisie term for this kind of hypocrisy is cognitive dissonance.” – Jeff Reifman, Where are Washington’s K-12 dollars? Just ask Microsoft shareholders, Crosscut (2014)
Microsoft’s tax evasions could fully fund McCleary, fully funding Washington State’s basic education budget. Budget cuts caused by the tax dodging of Microsoft would benefit our most vulnerable citizens, including the GEO prison detainees. Microsoft has used prison labor for profit while laying off Microsoft employees. The Gates Foundation has invested in the GEO Prison Group, profiting from human misery.
How does the amount of funding per inmate compared to the amount of funding per K-12 student in Washington State?
- Funding per inmate in Washington State: $46,897 per year.
- Funding per K-12 student in Washington State: $11,328 per year.
Gates Microsoft tax revenues could work towards evening out the imbalance between what is spent on K-12 students vs what is spent on inmates as well. While we do not suggest treating prisoners inhumanely in any way, we do suggest that investing in education leads to an increase in incarceration. Doesn’t it make sense to invest in our children up front to prevent incarceration?
The cuts to Washington State budgets create shortfalls that would otherwise fund our most vulnerable.
The statistics tell a troubling story:
The opportunity gap starts early. Disparities in cognitive, social and behavioral skills and overall health are evident before a child turns one, and grow larger by age two.(15)
The opportunity gap is evident on nearly every indicator of child well-being. Children of color or from low income families lag behind their more economically secure peers on everything from education outcomes, neighborhood safety, and health issues, and are more likely to enter the child welfare system.(16)
Not finishing high school on time. Nearly eight of every 10 students (75 percent) graduate overall, but students of color and those from low- income families are less likely to graduate on-time (within four years of entering ninth grade) compared to their white and higher-income peers.(17) – Kim Justice, Michael Mitchell, Andy Nicholas, Lori Pfingst, A Paramount Duty: Funding Education for McCleary and Beyond, (2013)
How has America’s culture accepted this outrage? Chris Hedges explained in “The Death of the Liberal Class” how that death was caused by “visually emotive media”. Our society is inundated with prison shows, normalizing prison as an “acceptable” part of our culture. Orange is the New Black is one of the most popular programs on Netflix. IMDb lists the Top 10 Prison TV Series. MSNBC sports LOCKUP with titles like LOCKUP Raw: Violence Behind Bars. Increasingly, the public keeps their ratings high, while the media/news corporations, Hollywood, Microsoft, and Bill Gates profit from this misery.
What can you do? Here are just a few ways you can help.
In an effort to push the Gates from his investments in GS4 Israeli prisons, Code Pink was successful in a global protest. Follow in Code Pink’s footsteps with us.
“Bill Gates has sold off some of his shares in controversial British security giant G4S after the billionaire computer software magnate was criticised for his investment.
The G4S shares were bought in June 2013 through the philanthropic organisation he runs with his wife, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation…
…And Israel is accused of holding children in its prisons as well as torturing incarcerated Palestinians, both of which would also breach international law.” – Shane Croucher, Bill Gates Whittles Down G4S Investment Amid Israel Prisons Criticism, (2014)
Per Lael Henterly:
“Presente is also circulating an online petition demanding that Gates Foundation get their money out of the GEO Group…” “We really want to make sure Gates divests,” says Mariana Ruiz, Managing Director at Presente.org. “We have many people working on this and we will keep working until they divest.”
– Lael Henterly, Gates Foundation resists pressure to pull private prison investment, Seattle Globalist, (2014)
We need to increase exposure to Gates’ propaganda and demand that he divest from profiting off budget cuts through tax dodging and prison labor profits connected directly to human misery. We have to knock Gates off his humanitarian pedestal by exposing the truth vs his propaganda.
The Washington Badass Teachers Association is hosting a protest on public property near Microsoft in Redmond, WA on Black Friday, asking people WORLDWIDE to join us to #BoycottMicrosoft. This direct action is intended to increase public awareness of the Microsoft tax dodging and their ties to prison labor, education cuts, and inhumane racist labor practices.
Join our protest – #BlackFriday #BoycottMicrosoft WORLDWIDE. You can make a huge impact by sharing our event and participating.
Sign our petition demanding that Microsoft, Bill Gates, and Steve Ballmer pay the taxes they have dodged globally, nationally, and in Washington State. Click on the lin below to sign:
Donate to our #BlackFriday #BoycottMicrosoft GoFundMe to support the costs of artful resistance we have planned for our protest event. $5-20 adds up fast to crowd fund our resistance.
Sign up for our Facebook event here, even if you are not attending in person at the Redmond Microsoft location. If you are in the Northwest on Black Friday, join us here for an evening candlelight vigil protest from 5:30 – 7:30 pm.
LOCATION: Microsoft – Park NEAR Overlake Transit Center, just a block from the overpass:
15590 Northeast 36th Street
Redmond, WA 98052. Follow the signs to the picket.
Do you have ideas on how to move Bill and Melinda Gates toward their own idealistic humanitarian image and away from their investments in racism and human misery? Share them in the comment section below.
**NOTE: We will discuss how the Microsoft tax dodging impacts other vulnerable people in future posts. This post does not begin to discuss the School-To-Prison Pipeline, which is part of the profit from human suffering and racism.