Remembering Martin Luther King: Rallying for the Robin Hood Tax

by Bill Barclay

Bill Barclay speaking at Chicago RHT rally

Bill Barclay speaking at Chicago RHT rally

April 4th was the Fiftieth anniversary of an event that we don’t like to remember: the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. But, it also offers the chance to honor and carry forward MLK’s thinking and goals, particularly the concerns with poverty and inequality that he articulated with increasing intensity in the last years of his life.

So, on April 4th there was a national mobilization around the Robin Hood Tax (RHT), the proposal for a very small tax on financial transactions in stocks, currencies, debt and derivatives, futures and options based on these financial claims. The RHT has two goals: raising a large amount of money to reconstruct the U.S. political economy in a way that serves most of the population and at, the same time, restricting or even eliminating some of the most destructive aspects of finance and financial activities by throwing a small amount of sand into the gears of always increasing and always going faster treading volumes.

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Rep. Ellison Introduces Robin Hood Tax–Supporters Will Rally on Saturday

by Kenneth Quinnell

Rep.Keith Ellison

Rep.Keith Ellison

On Wednesday, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) introduced the Inclusive Prosperity Act (H.R. 1579), which would create a financial transaction tax that would raise billions of dollars in new revenue. The tax is similar to one that existed in the United States until 1966 and that is levied in 40 countries around the world. Another 11 countries are currently considering joining them.

‘This is a huge day,’ Rep. Ellison announced at a press conference within view of the Capitol. ‘This is a small tax on Wall Street transactions to meet the needs of our nation. Didn’t America step up to the plate when Wall Street needed help? It will reduce harmful market speculation. Gambling on Wall Street does not benefit our society.’

Supporters of the bill will rally on April 20 in Washington, D.C.

[To get directions. RSVP and share with others on the Robin Hood Tax USA Facebook event page If you can’t attend the rally and the march, you can still show your support for the Robin Hood Tax on Facebook by using the,” I support the Robin Hood Tax” image as your profile picture.–Talking Union]

Kenneth Quinnell is a blogger for the AFL-CIO Now blog, where this post originally appeared.

How Congress Could Fix Its Budget Woes, Revisited: The Financial Transactions Tax Alternative

byJack Rasmus

Jack Rasmus

Jack Rasmus

In a February 13 article at Truthout, economist Ellen Brown wrote “How Congress Could Fix Its Budget Woes, Permanently.” The essence of her piece was a suggestion to engage in a quantitative easing (or “QE”) policy for households and consumers. To date, the Federal Reserve, the US central bank, has pumped more than $3 trillion directly into banks, speculators and other investors via its three-plus QE programs since 2009. The result has been minimal economic stimulus and growth, as banks have either sat on the cash, invested it offshore, or loaned it to hedge funds and other speculators, who have pumped up the stock and junk bond markets to near-bubble levels. Brown argues for a populist form of QE for Main Street which would jump start the real economy. Her point is, of course, true. Central banks can pump all the supply of money they want into the economy, but if the demand to hold cash (hoarding) exceeds that supply injection, and if the velocity of money (how fast it circulates) slows dramatically (which it has), then the negative effects of both the demand for money and velocity of money more than negate the injection of money by the central bank. So, Brown argues, why not bypass the banks and investors hoarding or diverting the cash they’re given by QE and the Fed to date and inject money into the economy directly?

Brown’s argument is economically sound but politically difficult to realize. One reason is that monetary policy is perceived as so arcane that it is too easy for bankers and their media talking heads to oppose a given proposal and confuse the issue with the public. Another problem is that monetary solutions typically have long lag times before they have an effect, and the money doesn’t always get to where it was intended to end up.

So, here’s another approach that achieves the same results as the path Brown proposes and is more comprehensible to the layperson and, therefore, likely to gain broad public support and be more difficult for the banksters and their friends to oppose.

I’m referring to a more direct fiscal action – the financial transaction tax.

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Chicago Nurses Say: We Need a Robin Hood Tax!

by Bob Simpson

National Nurses United(NNU) took up the cause of Robin Hood at Chicago’s downtown J.P. Morgan Chase building on June 19. With its merry band of tax reforming nurses, the NNU held a lunch hour rally to press for a financial transactions tax (FTT) or as it is more commonly called, a “Robin Hood Tax”. Chicago was among 15 cities where similar rallies were held.

Easily recognized by their red scrubs along with their Robin Hood hats and masks, NNU  members described the Robin Hood tax in signs that read,”It’s Not a Tax On the People. It’s a Tax For the People.”

It's not a tax on the people

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Robin Hood Tax: Economic Justice

by Leo Gerard

USW President Leo Gerard

Robin Hood popped up all across America last week. A bunch of green-suited Merry Men protested in front of Wall Street bank branches in 15 cities.

Another felt-hatted group demonstrated in Washington D.C. during J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon’s testimony about why his bank shouldn’t submit to regulation even after flushing $2 billion down the toilet. The biggest band of Robin Hoods appeared on dollar bills — a pointy hat drawn on George’s head and the words “Robin Hood tax” written below.

The American Robin Hoods are seeking economic justice. They want Congress to resurrect the financial transactions tax. This is the Robin Hood tax, a tiny levy on the sale of stuff like stocks, bonds, derivatives, futures and credit default swaps. It packs two benefits in one tax. It would give the government cash to offset the cost of the Wall Street-caused recession. And it would suppress the high-risk, high-speed trading that caused the crash. Britain, home of Robin Hood, already charges a form of it. Ten European Union countries plan to institute it. America needs it.

It’s not new. The United States collected the tax for half of the 20th Century. During the Great Depression, Congress doubled it to help pay for recovery. It’s not novel. Twenty-nine countries charge it now, including Brazil, India, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and Switzerland. It’s the opposite of a God-forsaken-market-killer. While it was levied in the United States from 1914 to 1966, the nation enjoyed the world’s greatest economic expansion.

And it’s a great idea. Lawmakers and pundits are screaming and crying about “the financial cliff” the country faces in December when tax rates will automatically rise and massive budget cuts automatically begin. The Robin Hood tax would help solve that problem.

The impending cuts include $321 billion slashed over a decade from programs that help everyday working people including cancer research, farm inspectors and federal grants to cities for law enforcement. The Bipartisan Policy Center estimates that the spending cuts would reduce the gross domestic product next year by half a percentage point – which in real life terms means more unemployment, more foreclosures, more poverty.

That doesn’t have to happen. All it takes is resuming the Robin Hood tax. Legislation already introduced in Congress to charge .03 percent on trades would raise $350 billion over a decade. That’s enough to preserve all of those programs for working people.

The nation charges sales taxes on cars and toys and soap. But it charges nothing on the sale of stocks and bonds and risky derivatives.

There’s no reason credit default swap sales should get a pass and dodge taxation.  Especially when there’s another reason that taxing them is a great idea. The tiny tax, 50 cents on every $100 traded, would discourage the Wall Street gambling that continues to threaten the stability of the U.S. economy.

Two years ago, Lake Research found 80 percent of those polled favored a Robin Hood Tax that would suppress risk. Here’s the statement that 8 in 10 supported:

“We need to rein in the greedy, reckless behavior of the big banks on Wall Street that cost millions of jobs and led to huge bailouts on our dime. This tax will put a limit on the casino culture of Wall Street that provides no real value and only exists to line the banker’s pockets. This reform will strengthen our financial system to help prevent another crisis and reduce the deficit.”

It’s also the reason leaders in France and Germany are pushing the tax for Europe. They believe it will cool overheated computer-driven, high-frequency financial speculation, promote long-term productive investment and provide money to rescue unstable banks in places like Spain without requiring workers to bail them out. Not all 27 countries support the tax, but France and Germany plan to move ahead with the first eight others that do, including Italy, Spain, Greece, Poland and Austria.

In addition to those world leaders, another suit-and-tie crowd joined the green-outfitted Robin Hood tax supporters last week. On Thursday, 52 economists, hedge fund managers, current and former heads of European banks, and former high level executives of Wall Street banks sent a letter to the leaders of the world’s largest economies asking them to institute a financial transaction tax. They said the tax would serve the world economy:

“Financial transaction taxes of a small fraction of a percent on each trade, such as those proposed by the European Commission and backed by a number of G20 countries, would moderate the incentives for such short-term speculation while having a negligible impact on long-term investment.”

Wall Street banks, bailed out by the Bush administration in 2008, continued to speculate anyway and failed to engage in the self-discipline necessary to safeguard against future crashes. The $2 billion loss J.P. Morgan reported last month and Moody’s downgrading the credit scores of 15 major banks last week testify to the institutions’ risk taking.

Even after losing all that money, J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon insisted banks don’t need regulation. Let’s go with the tax then, Jamie. Because workers sure can’t take another crash.

Support the Robin Hood tax. Draw a green Robin Hood hat on George on a dollar bill. Write Robin Hood tax below it and sign it. Photograph yourself with your Robin Hood dollar bill under your chin and post it on Facebook. Tweet it. Circulate the Robin Hood greenback and the Robin Hood tax cause.

Leo Gerard is Presidne tof the United Steelworkers.

How about a Robin Hood Tax?

Do Nurses Have an Rx for Our Ailing Economy?

 by Bob Simpson

NNU

They became a Chicago media sensation after they streamed into Chicago’s Daley Plaza on the morning of May 18, wearing the now familiar National Nurses United (NNU) red scrubs. Many of them had the green caps and masks you’ve seen in nearly every Robin Hood movie ever made. The NNU is the largest union of nurses in the USA and one of the more progressive unions in the AFL-CIO.  In addition to improving working conditions for nurses, the NNU has taken on the role of trying to nurse our sick economy back to health.

Near the Picasso sculpture in Daley Plaza, the NNU had a  stage with a large banner of a smiling nurse in a Robin Hood outfit. Next to her was another banner of Sherwood Forest itself which served as the backdrop to the speeches, skits and music. The nurses put on  quite a show, all in support of taxing Wall Street.


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Crash Tax: Wall Street Reparations

by Leo Gerard

USW President Leo Gerard

Wall Street waged war on the American economy and middle class with its reckless gambling.

It wasn’t Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac that crashed the economy. It wasn’t the federal government. It wasn’t hapless homeowners who were sold mortgages they couldn’t afford. It was Wall Street financiers that aggressively sought and bought mortgages to package and sell as derivatives, which the banks could wager on.

Americans bailed out Wall Street, handing it a Marshall Plan for reconstruction after its bad bets blew up the world economy.  Now, three years later, happy days are here again for the Wall Street banksters. They’re hauling in big profits and paying outrageous bonuses. But the American middle class continues to suffer high unemployment, record foreclosures and rising poverty.

So it’s time for Wall Street to pay reparations. It’s time for a crash tax, a tiny sales tax on Wall Street transactions, the revenues from which would pay for Main Street restoration. It’s time for the 1 percent to repay the 99 percent, for Wall Street to share in the sacrifices necessitated by its rogue behavior.

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