Protesters interrupted a speech by General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt in Detroit on Tuesday, chanting President Obama’s oft-repeated mantra: "pay your fair share."
Immelt, who was speaking to the SAE World Congress, responded to the Cobo Center protesters by defending his brand’s payment of income taxes.
"Tax rate was 29 percent last year," the president's "job czar" told the members of the "99 percent."
Roughly 20 protesters "scuffled" with Detroit police before being escorted out of the building. The protestors blew whistles and were “forcibly blocked” from entering the SAE exhibition hall, according to The Detroit News.
The whistle-toting "99 percenters" tried to hand Immelt a bill for $26.5 billion -- the amount they claim GE owes in back taxes under the 35 percent statutory tax rate.
"Enough is enough," said Shyquetta McElroy, a other of two, who traveled from Milwaukee to join the protests. "I made the trip to Detroit because Wisconsin is suffering from a debt epidemic right now and I believe that should not be true when we have big corporations like GE who have only paid 11 percent in taxes."
"I pay my taxes year after year — why doesn't GE?"
See Immelt confronted by the "99%" (via Aaron Krager):
GE paid a 25 percent income tax rate in the U.S. in 2011 and a 29 percent rate globally, according to GE spokesman Gary Sheffer.
The company paid $2.9 billion globally in income tax in 2011, he added.
Sheffer went on to explain that GE only paid a 7 percent U.S. tax rate in 2010 because “it had lost $32 billion in its financial services unit and because of other tax breaks.”
"We paid income taxes and we paid another $1 billion in taxes across the U.S. — state, local federal," he said. "The folks that are protesting here are unfortunately protesting based on misinformation. We did pay taxes. Our rate was lower.”
Watch the "99%" as they're escorted out of the Cobo Center:
The protesters yelled that GE was "the poster child of American corporate tax-dodging" and argued it has been paying only a 2.3 percent effective rate over the last 10 years, The Detroit News reports.
But according to GE, these are the facts (via the Weekly Standard):
GE paid almost $2.7 billion of income taxes to governments around the world during 2010 including payment of substantial income taxes to the US government for prior years. GE paid income taxes for our 2010 return. GE also paid more than $1 billion in other federal, state and local taxes in the U.S. in 2010. The main reason why GE’s tax rate was so low in 2010 was that we lost billions of dollars in GE Capital as a result of the global financial crisis.
Immelt brushed off the protesters by joking that it was “good practice” for the company’s annual meeting in Detroit on Thursday, which, by the way, the UAW has said it might protest.
Protesters play "taxdodger ball":
This article has been updated.