Jeff Reifman

#BlackFriday #BoycottMicrosoft: Prisons and Slavery: How Bill Gates, the Gates Foundation and Microsoft Profit From Racism and Human Suffering Part 2: The Prison – School Connection

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.

Jail Door

 

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)

According to David Sirota and Jeff Reifman, Microsoft has dodged $29.6 Billion in US taxes and $8.16 Billion in WA State taxes through intentional, possibly illegal maneuvers.

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?

No Cuts to Education

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.

Code Pink

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)

Sign this petition demanding Bill Gates divest from GEO Group Prisons:

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.

 

REBEL

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:

Bill Gates, Microsoft, Steve Ballmer: STOP DODGING TAXES: Pay your FAIR SHARE of taxes!

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.

Don’t wait for #BlackFriday. #BoycottMicrosoft WORLDWIDE now!

 

The Machine

“The taxes dodged by Microsoft over the last 17 years could have paid for Washington’s public education shortfall.”

Jeff Reifman, Crosscut

Last July, the Washington Badass Teachers Association organized a protest demanding Bill and Melinda Gates divest from corporate education reform.  WA BATs are organizing in protest of Bill Gates again, this time on Black Friday –  November 28th. The WA BATs are organizing a WORLDWIDE #BoycottMicrosoft protest in response to Microsoft’s blatant tax evasion maneuvers. Sign up to join the Washington Badass Teachers Association #BlackFriday #BoycottMicrosoft Protest on their Facebook Event link here.

 

99 Percent

Join us in boycotting the following Microsoft products worldwide:

  1. MS Windows
  2. MS Office
  3. MS Surface Tablets
  4. Minecraft
  5. Xbox
  6. Nokia phones

The protest unfolds in a climate where the Washington State Supreme Court has recently ruled the WA State Legislature is in contempt for breaking their constitutional oath to fully fund basic education as their “paramount duty“.

But WHY #BoycottMicrosoft?   Legislators continue to favor corporate tax loopholes, while Bill Gates and Microsoft continue to intentionally shelter profits offshore in tax havens.

The fact many Microsoft profits are from public education is not lost on the WA BATs. The fact that Microsoft’s unethical business practices lead directly to underfunded schools is not lost on WA BATs. Washington State public schools are now criminally underfunded, as Crosscut’s Jeff Reifman explains in Where are Washington’s K-12 Tax Dollars?  Just ask Microsoft shareholders. :

“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.” – Jeff Reifman

 

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In this candlelight vigil walking protest we carry a light for every child who didn’t get the attention their teacher wanted to give them because of criminal under-funding of schools.

We mourn the learning opportunities lost in our classrooms because of tax loopholes and Microsoft’s intentional evasions.

We mourn the loss of revenue for our most vulnerable citizens whom Bill Gates claims to protect.

We are protesting tax loopholes given to – and taken by the wealthy.

Microsoft is shirking their responsibility for meeting society’s needs and putting the tax burden on the backs of workers, thus perpetuating inequality (while profiting at record levels).

We MOURN economic fairness.

But we aren’t just mourning passively. We are organizing against  regressive unethical corporate greed!  We have a clear struggle ahead of us and we have solidarity.

Some may question our protest of one they consider a hero or “secular saint“.  We ask you to read on…

 

Secular Saint

“The world’s richest man is seen as a secular saint. But he should question the example Microsoft is setting by avoiding tax.”

– Ian Birrell, The Guardian

Birrell goes on to describe the accolades given to Gates by both the left and the right …

“The left loves him as a rich man giving away much of his fortune for good causes. The right respects a business brain imposing financial rigour on a spendthrift aid sector. Charity chiefs and celebrities adore him, while politicians jostle to join him in the spotlight.

Clearly, he relishes his latest role, becoming increasingly influential and outspoken. He loves to lecture nations on how they should give away more of their taxpayers’ money.” – Ian Birrell

Could it be the left and the right both receive the graces “$aint Bill” bestows upon them? But Birrell asks a very important question:  Is Bill Gates a hypocrite?  Readers, continue and decide for yourselves…

Bill Gates claims he wants to help public education.  Yet Microsoft intentionally avoids paying their fair share.  Meanwhile they claim this has no significant impact on our state or the state’s economy.

“Microsoft’s Executive Vice President and General Counsel Brad Smith acknowledged this practice and discussed its impact on Washington tax revenues in an interview I did with him in 2004.

“Obviously the company did make a decision, I’m not remembering exactly how many years ago, to put Microsoft Licensing Incorporated in Nevada in part to recognize the lower tax rate that was in place there,” he said. “And there have been times when people in state government have mentioned to us the issue of whether we might move that back to the state of Washington. The reality is that, in the scheme of things, the impact is not very significant either for the company or for the state. Either the state government or the state economy.” – Jeff  ReifmanCrosscut

Who is Microsoft fooling?  Is this a boldface lie?  How does such a thing happen in Washington State?  Perhaps tax sheltered funds are used towards lobbying our congressmen/congresswomen and governors.  For one, Neoliberal Governor Christine Gregoire appointed former Microsoft executive – Suzan DelBene –  now Washington State Congresswoman as the Director of the Department of Revenue, that’s how.

How could Bill Gates make education better?  The Gates Foundation claims to want to help the most vulnerable of all students – our students in poverty, for example:

” Our United States Division works to improve U.S. high school and postsecondary education and support vulnerable children and families in Washington State.” The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Our underfunded schools leave our most vulnerable citizens without the resources Bill Gates and the corporate refomers claim they wish to give and in fact do harm to them.  Equitable funding is the real failure in our public schools.  Instead of paying his taxes, Gates has invested billions on corporate education reform – almost all of which is through grants that have strings attached to accountability measures that induce a “Game of Thrones” stack ranking system much like he implemented into Microsoft.  Microsoft employees were crushed by this system and it was recently dropped by the company as a result of harm to the company, yet he insists on using it on children, teachers, and schools. Gates is determined to use public education as his laboratory to experiment on other people’s children with his money for yet more profit.  Meanwhile each experiment takes a terrible toll on students and teachers – especially our most vulnerable children.

Gates has bankrolled Common Core, high stakes testing, charter schools, and teacher evaluations tied to test scores.  He has bankrolled union busting even when evidence demonstrates children achieve at much higher rates in our nation’s unionized states.

Gates and Microsoft have taken advantage of US schools for profit, yet they hide their profits offshore increasingly to avoid paying their fair share which in turn could help fully fund basic education across the US.

“Microsoft’s use of the offshore subsidiary tactics has exploded in the last five years, with the amount of Microsoft earnings shifted offshore jumping 516 percent since 2008, according to SEC filings.” – David Sirota (2014)

So is this tax evasion legal?  Maybe, according to David Sirota… but Sirota also acknowledges these are intentional maneuvers which threaten government budget deficits.

“The disclosure in Microsoft’s SEC filing lands amid an intensifying debate over the fairness of U.S.-based multinational corporations using offshore subsidiaries and so-called “inversions” to avoid paying American taxes. Such maneuvers — although often legal — threaten to signficantly reduce U.S. corporate tax receipts during an era marked by government budget deficits.” – David Sirota (2014)

But maybe not according to Jeff Reifman:

“Because the facilities and employees that built and sold Microsoft’s software overwhelmingly exist in Redmond, the state could have challenged Microsoft Nevada’s accounting as an illegal step doctrine, but I was told repeatedly by former Department of Revenue Director of Communications, Mike Gowrylow, that the state didn’t want to take the risk of losing.”

To demonstrate just one of the ways Bill and Melinda Gates and Microsoft profit from education while evading paying taxes on their profits, consider Common Core alone.

Microsoft and Pearson get big CCSS profits

“Foremost among corporations already profiting from the CCSS are Bill Gates’ Microsoft and British-based Pearson Inc. Both spent years channeling corporate funds through not-for-profit “charities” — the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Pearson Foundation, respectively — to champion the development and promotion of Common Core and to create a marketplace for their education technology.

Gates Foundation spokespeople tout the CCSS as a “step to greater excellence in education,” but this latest round of federally imposed educational testing is really designed to secure new markets for technical and computerized educational materials. The Gates Foundation spent over $170 million to manipulate the U.S. Department of Education to impose the CCSS, knowing it would realize a return on this investment as school districts and parents rush to buy the technology products they’ve been convinced are vital to improving education.

In 2011 the Gates Foundation joined forces with the Pearson Foundation to create new online reading and math courses for the CCSS. Pearson executives saw the potential to secure lucrative contracts in testing, textbooks and software worth tens of millions of dollars.” – Betsy Piette, Worker’s World (2014)

Ironically, the profits from Microsoft licensing paid by public school districts via taxpayer money are the same profits Microsoft evades paying taxes on in Washington State.  Just imagine the profits from licensing all of the school districts who have Windows and Microsoft Office installed on their computers by reading the costs to one district alone below.  Microsoft was accused of bullying Oregon and Washington public schools in 2002 in this article – Schools cry bully over Microsoft licensing fees.

‘The company also changed its stand-alone licenses and now forces schools to pay full retail cost for many upgrades.

All of those changes mean schools can expect to pay Microsoft more now than in the past, regardless of the type of licensing agreement they sign.

“We’re not in a wonderful financial situation as it is,” said Robinson. “We took $36 million out of the budget for next year. The cost of licensing would run about $500,000, which for us is the cost of 10 teaching positions.” – Kim Zetter, PC World, (2002) (emphasis ours)

 

Corporate Welfare or Robbing the Poor to Give to the Rich?

Corporate Welfare or Robbing the Poor to Give to the Rich?

What does Bill Gates have to say about corporations paying their fair share? Funny how he forgets about the lobbying and choices he makes, putting all the blame on legislators.  So much for ethics.

“Gates, when pressed on his firm’s tax policies, gave the usual glib response that they play by the rules. “If people want taxes at certain levels, great, set them at those levels,” he said. “But it’s not incumbent on those companies to take shareholder money and pay huge sums that aren’t required.” – Ian Birrell

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WA State Legislators are in contempt of the Supreme Court for violating their oath to uphold Washington’s State Constitutional “paramount duty”. – McCleary

What does Bill Gates say about Black Friday?

“You may have heard of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. There’s another day you might want to know about: Giving Tuesday. The idea is pretty straightforward. On the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, shoppers take a break from their gift-buying and donate what they can to charity.”Bill Gates

Your charity does not cover up the harm done by not paying your fair share of taxes to help the worlds’ most vulnerable, Mr. and Mrs. Gates.

Why is #BoycottMicrosoft important for Washington State?

“In 2010, Microsoft earned $62.5 billion. If Microsoft Nevada recorded more than $30 billion a year from software licensing, that meant licensing had grown to make 50 percent of its total yearly revenues — much more than its final public disclosure of 31.6 percent in 2003. That number would make sense considering the company’s rapid migration from retail software packages to bulk licensing deals with PC manufacturers and Fortune 500 customers.

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.” – Jeff Reifman (emphasis ours)

We are many.  The 1% are few.  Organize.  #BoycottMicrosoft Worldwide!

We are many. The 1% are few. Organize. #BoycottMicrosoft Worldwide!

Why #BoycottMicrosoft WORLDWIDE?  Read Ian Birrell’s report on the GLOBAL implications of Microsoft’s tax evasions here.  Clearly, the lost revenue created by unethical decisions made by the world’s richest man need to be actively challenged.

Does Bill Gates really want to help public education?  Then be ethical.  Microsoft and Bill Gates – pay your fair share!

Don’t wait for #BlackFriday.  Don’t stop on #BlackFriday. 

Don’t stop until Bill Gates and Microsoft pay their fair share!

Readers,  how can you help organize a #BoycottMicrosoft Protest worldwide?

Here is our flyer.  Send us YOURS! 

Black Friday Boycott Microsoft Rally