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Nurses from at least four continents, including a U.S. delegation from National Nurses United, will deliver that message November 3 at the G-20 summit meeting November 3 in Cannes – urging enactment of a financial transaction tax that could raise hundreds of billions of dollars a year to heal global economies, promote sustainable development and environmental security, and strengthen quality public services.
Nurses will be joined by labor, environmental, non-governmental, and community activists who have made the push for a global FTT an international movement that has sparked the adoption of an FTT by more than a dozen nations, and prompted the European Commission to propose a global FTT which is expected to be a major topic at the G-20 summit.
The call for a FTT, sometimes called a “Robin Hood tax” (a form of such a tax was actually in place in the U.S. for most of the first half of the last century), has become a powerful force in Europe especially.
But a major stumbling block continues to be the opposition of the Obama administration, led by U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, who has personally lobbied European finance ministers to oppose an FTT despite the support for the proposal from ostensibly more conservative governments in Germany and France.
That’s one reason nurses from across the U.S. will hold a concurrent protest on November 3 on Geithner’s doorstep, with a protest outside the Treasury Department in Washington.
As the campaign for an FTT has mushroomed internationally, it remained under the radar in the U.S. until NNU helped rekindle the call for a tax on Wall Street transactions earlier this year.
NNU leaders, seeing the broadening decline in health status and living standards directly linked to the seemingly intractable economic calamity – from ailments linked to poor nutrition to patients rejecting needed medical care because of cost – reasoned that a tax on Wall Street could help raise the desperately needed revenue for such critical social needs as health care for all, jobs at living wages, full funding for quality public education, and a healthy environment.
Some major U.S. economists, and organizations including the AFL-CIO, Oxfam, Institute for Policy Studies, and Public Citizen have long supported implementation of a tax on Wall Street stocks, bonds, currencies, default swaps, and other major financial transactions that are now largely untaxed.
This past spring, NNU, with the support of labor and consumer allies, began a highly visible public campaign for the tax as a major way to make Wall Street begin to pay for reviving an economy that it crashed. They did so through reckless gambling with family mortgages, worker pensions and other misdeeds that were the prime cause of the 2008 crash and resulting crumbling conditions in Main Street communities with devastating consequences for the health and welfare of American families.
In June, NNU brought thousands of nurses and friends to the Washington headquarters of the Chamber of Commerce, Wall Street’s main lobbying arm, and to the New York Stock Exchange to sound the call for an FTT.
From July through mid-September, NNU members held multiple actions from coast to coast, including soup kitchens, health clinics, sit-ins, and street theater, culminating in a national day of action on September 1 with thousands of nurses calling on 60 Congressional offices in 21 states. NNU signs, urging “Tax Wall Street” become a highly visible banner throughout the nation.
It was just a few weeks later that tens of thousands of other Americans began their own form of protest against Wall Street’s excesses that became a prairie fire now forever known as Occupy Wall Street. Not coincidentally, many Occupy Wall Street protesters have also endorsed the call for a tax on Wall Street and the Canadian magazine Adbusters, an initiator of the proposal for the occupy protests, has also publicly urged enactment of an FTT.
Calls for an FTT now ring the airwaves, and can be found not just in obscure blogs, but in the columns of leading writers in all of the major U.S. media.
That’s one reason that reviews of a significant new book on the Obama White House, “Confidence Men” by Ron Suskind, routinely note that President Obama himself once leaned toward supporting an FTT but was dissuaded by his former top economic adviser, Larry Summers who, like Geithner, has a substantial, long term ties to Wall Street.
With the constellation of the occupy protests and the broad international movement for the FTT, the moment for achieving the tax, and the critical revenue it can provide to help revive struggling economies, has never been greater.
But only if all of us raise our voices demanding that the Obama administration support an FTT.
We need your voice as well. Join us on November 3 in Cannes or Washington D.C. Call the White House, 202-456-1111 and tell them to tax Wall Street financial transactions and get on the side of Main Street not Wall Street. Learn more about our campaign at www.mainstreetcontract.org.
Rose Ann DeMoro is executive director of National Nurses United. Learn more about the NNU proposal for an alternative vision, a Main Street Contract for the American People.