PLAY: “Space Invaders” With a Twist -- New “Tax Evaders” Game Makes Corporations Pay Fair Share
As Tax Day approaches, it’s important to remember who actually pays taxes in the United States — and who doesn’t.
Of course if you follow the same backward logic used to justify our current economic policies, it may not be too surprising to learn that many of the wealthiest corporations pay zero dollars in taxes. Even more, most of these corporations even end up getting millions of dollars back via tax refunds from the IRS. And they do it all by navigating tax loopholes and moving their profits to offshore tax havens — costing taxpayers an estimated $100 billion a year. A new study revealed that offshore tax havens cost the average taxpayer $1,026 and the average small business $3,067.
If you’re outraged by this economic injustice — as you should be — a network of artists and concerned citizens has designed a game that allows players to let off some steam. But the game goes beyond that, too. Based on the popular arcade game “Space Invaders,” “Tax Evaders” calls on players to take down the corporations who are trying to evade their taxes. You can play the game online here.
Gan Golan, artist and organizer who helped conceptualize “Tax Evaders,” said the lead up to Tax Day is an opportune time to talk about our unjust tax policies.
“Taxes is an area where everyday people feel like it’s an issue in a very personal way. People have been working all year and we’re all doing our parts and paying our fair share of taxes to make some sort of sacrifice for the common good,” he said. “It is grossly unfair that some of the wealthiest corporations in the world pay a smaller percentage of taxes than they do. So it’s a really important time to talk about how unfair our society has become.”
“Tax Evaders” mixes creativity, humor and our political reality to encourage players to rise up against these corporations. A crowd of protesters in the streets represents the player, who throws up a raised fist to knock down the corporations. The more successful players are, the more money goes back into social services such as schools, health care and infrastructure. But watch out — the government also appears in the game, making things worse with a sequester and austerity cuts.
“Why are we even talking about cuts to Social Security and other public services before going after these tax evaders who are stealing hundreds of billions of dollars from our economy each year?” Golan said. “We don’t need to close schools and hospitals. We need to close loopholes for powerful corporations and the very rich.”
On Wednesday, organizers across the country held a “National Night of Action” to raise awareness about corporate tax evasion. Projection teams in NYC, Baltimore, New Orleans and Spokane, WA, projected the game on the sides of the buildings of corporations that evade taxes and encouraged passersby to play.
Once we turned the game on, a crowd of random people gathered, and it became a scene. People seemed mesmerized, both by the idea that you could actually play a video game on the side of a building, and by the ideas that the game was getting across. We were using a Wii controller so anyone could play and the crowd was totally hooked. They cheered when the player did well, and booed when the corporations won. It was great to hear lot of discussion in the crowd about the issue it raised, and how all these cuts to health care, schools and other basic services were tied to corporations not paying their fair share . The event was further amplified by the presence of the Occupy Wall Street light brigade across the street with a giant illuminated sign that said CITI: TAX EVADER.
A network of nationwide activists known as “Overpass Light Brigades” used public installation tactics to shine the “Tax Evader” corporate creatures on overpasses and in front of the corporations' buildings. These organizers plan to also shine these messages near post offices on Tax Day, as people file their taxes last minute.
Those not in cities with established Overpass Light Brigades, can still take part in the action by following the organizers’ how-to guide and using their toolkit. Organizers are also encouraging people to Twitter bomb these corporations and call them out for not paying taxes.
“We want people to realize, it might be a video game, but we can step outside the game and confront these tax evaders in real life, too,” Golan said.
The “Tax Evaders” project comes one year after a NYC Occupy Wall Street direct action street theater project in which people dressed up as baseball players to form a satirical team called the “Tax Dodgers.” Each player was a different corporation that evaded taxes. The group was even invited to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY and their uniform was put on display.
Golan said he plans to continue to work with other artist/activists to create projects to advocate for economic justice.
He said, “I think our jobs as artists is to constantly speak to the issues that are impacting people’s daily lives, give them resonance and help amplify the voice of people who are being treated unfairly in our systems.”
Photos courtesy of Gan Golan.