When I heard that this past Monday marked Wells Fargo's 160th birthday and that activists decided to "celebrate" (read: protest the hell out of Wells Fargo) in various parts of the country, I was not surprised -- in fact, I was glad.
What better way to "celebrate" the largest bank in the nation, which has caused so much pain to so many Americans in so many ways, than to deliver a politically packed birthday surprise to remember. Some of the members of 1Miami would have perhaps sent a "birthday present" of their own but then some of them realized that they were too broke to send a gift in the first place.
After reading reports of how America's least favorite tax-dodging bank celebrated its birthday with scraping-the-surface public relations stunts, I thought it would be useful to remind folks that the only thing worth celebrating, here, is the fact that more and more Americans are waking up and learning how much Wells Fargo has bamboozled us and brought misery to our communities.
But just in case anyone has forgotten how Wells Fargo has contributed to our woes, let's review some facts.
Wells Fargo is not paying its fair share.
Wells Fargo is America's biggest tax-dodger. Wells Fargo put taxpayers on the hook for $43 billion in bailout funds, made record profits, and paid negative federal income taxes over the last three years. While we struggle to save our homes and schools, Wells Fargo refuses to pay its fair share. Wells Fargo made a three-year U.S. profit of $49.3 billion, with an additional $1.6 billion stashed in offshore tax-havens. The corporation received $17.96 billion in tax breaks over those three years -- more than any other company. Wells Fargo didn't pay any federal income taxes on its billions in profit. Instead, the corporation received a refund of $681 million on federal taxes from 2008 to 2010.
Wells Fargo helped crash our economy.
The banks got bailed out and the people got sold out. Ain't that the truth? Wells Fargo made billions of dollars in profit off a taxpayer bailout. Rather than help the 99 percent, Wells Fargo has foreclosed on homes, laid off workers, and funded job-killing politicians. It's time Wells Fargo used its vast wealth and gratuitous tax breaks to benefit working families, rather than its political allies and the 1 percent. It's time for all politicians and banks to take responsibility.
Wells Fargo engages in discriminatory and predatory lending and leads the U.S. in home foreclosure rates.
When Wells Fargo got bailed out, it thanked American taxpayers by giving more and more Americans the boot by kicking them out of their homes. Gee, thanks! From 2007 to 2009, Wells Fargo (and mortgage lenders it has since acquired) was 188 percent more likely to put African-American and 117 percent more likely to put Latino borrowers into higher-cost, subprime loans, according to reports provided to the federal government. While mortgage lending to white borrowers increased 34 percent, it dropped 44 percent for African-American borrowers and 38 percent for Latinos.
An old adage says that as one ages, one becomes wiser. Very true... but in the case of Wells Fargo, I'm not sure this tax-dodging menace has become any wiser -- unless, of course, wise could only be defined as ripping off the American people. But another adage does seem to aptly apply to Wells Fargo. "Experience comes with age." As Wells Fargo ages, it has become more adroit in evading responsibility and accountability to the American people. While Wells Fargo celebrates a historic benchmark, we need to seriously re-think the relationship between people and the role that big-pocket bankers play in our community.
While the banks party on, the people continue to suffer. Throughout this very critical election year, we should prepare to take more actions to hold banks, and politicians beholden to them, accountable. The dream of living in a world in which banks and the filthy rich pay their fair share and are held accountable for crashing our economy and leading foreclosures doesn't have to remain a dream if we can unite in common cause. When we do that, then we'll really have something to party over.