A small group of activists spent Monday afternoon bobbing in the waves around Carnival Corporation CEO Micky Arison's superyacht, protesting the meager tax rate paid by the cruise company with shouts of "Pay your fair share!"
"Corporate responsibility now!" screamed a sign aboard one of the protestors' two small boats, while a member of activist group 1Miami yelled "Stop sinking our city!" through a bullhorn.
There was no sign of Arison at the gleaming Mylin IV, which was docked at the Miami Beach Marina. But the action wasn't the first or the last designed to grab the Miami Heat owner's attention: in March, 1Miami held a "Carnaval to Unmask Carnival," and the group also plans a rally outside Carnival's annual shareholder meetings on Wednesday at the W Hotel.
"As everybody knows, he doesn't want to pay his fair share to create jobs, to hire people in the community," said one of the protestors. "That's why we went there... to ask him to pay his fair share."
According to a statement from 1Miami organizers, requesting Arison "be Miami's Warren Buffett" -- that is, support a fellow billionaire's belief that wealthy investors should not enjoy a lower tax rate than the middle class -- is a "tough ask":
Micky’s father and founder of Carnival Cruise Lines, Ted Arison, went so far as to renounce his citizenship in an attempt to avoid paying estate taxes. As for Micky, we don’t know what his personal tax rate is, but we do know that Carnival has taken in $5.6 billion of profits over the last three years, and paid a global tax rate of less then 1%. To add insult to injury, in the past three years, the federal government has given Carnival subsidies totaling $1.2 billion.
The action comes the same week President Barack Obama is in Florida lobbying for the "Buffett Rule," a tax plan that aims to alleviate income inequality by raising the minimum taxe rate on Americans earning more than $1 million per year.
Though the Buffett Rule has little hope of passing Congress, activists are undaunted in their desire to see Arison and Carnival pull more weight at the local level. The Miami New Times reported as far back as 2000 that through creatively evading taxes, the Arisons weren't paying as much as $360 million that Carnival would otherwise be contributing to the government, and in January, the paper detailed how local taxpayers haven't seen a dime from promised proceeds at the publicly-funded arena home of the Heat, either.
"This is the man who brought us LeBron James,” said Jose Suarez, communications director for 1Miami. “He's an extremely visible and recognizable figure in he city, and we feel Mr. Arison would be the perfect spokesman for fair taxation at both the individual and corporate levels.”
"We have to do noise," said a boater. "We're sick and tired of this situation...[there is] no help for nobody."