June 20, 2012
Dressed in red scrubs and chanting “Wall street says cutback, we say fight back,” members of National Nurses United gathered Tuesday outside JP Morgan Chase in downtown San Francisco to rally support for a “Robin Hood Tax” that aims to tap Wall Street investment transactions to fund social services.
Wearing Robin Hood hats, protesters drew double-takes from passers-by as they demonstrated – some with children in tow.
The tax, commonly known as a financial transaction (or speculation) tax, would apply to trades in stocks, bonds, currencies and derivatives. The tax would generate 50 cents for every $100 traded. According to a 2009 report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, the transaction tax, which has not yet garnered political backing, could raise as much as $350 billion per year.
Sue Fendley, a rally organizer, said the tax could make up for the shortfall in national education and health care funding.
“We are very surprised at the push back against this legislation,” Fendley said. “Who is pushing back? Essentially it is the one percent.”
Charles Idelson, director of communications for the California Nurses Association, blames misguided priorities in the political system.
“People have hospital bills they cannot pay, causing patients to self-ration care,” he said.
Bank officials did not return repeated calls for comment.
Travis Majers, an investment banker, declined to disclose the company he works for but said the nurses do not understand where the money for the tax would come from.
“Whenever you raise taxes on a corporation, that will turn around and hurt the consumer in the end with banks raising fees,” Majers said. “I don’t see anyone getting mad at Apple for their profit margins. Banks are going to walk the fine line of profits. This is a matter of what is fair and right.”
Retired teacher Terry Bailley travelled from Stockton to show his support for the tax. He said he is appalled at the lack of funding for education and healthcare.
“We’re dying stupid,” Bailley said. “The banks are more often than not getting tax breaks and often get tax money returned.”
Several countries benefit from taxes on financial transactions including the United Kingdom and China – without significant loss to business according to the International Monetary Fund website.
“Such taxes do not automatically drive out financial activity to an unacceptable extent,” the website says.
A concurrent effort to raise revenues from financial transactions is underway in the US. A bill called the Wall Street Trading and Speculators Tax Act was introduced in November by US Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR), but currently remains in committee, according to the Library of Congress.
The legislation aims to raise 3 cents for every $100 traded on most non-consumer financial transactions including stocks, bonds and other debts.
“True deficit reduction in this country must come from a balance of spending cuts and necessary revenue increases,” said Senator Harkin. “This trading tax would help raise necessary funds to invest in our infrastructure and the education of our children, among other priorities, and would do so without hurting job creation. There is no question that Wall Street can easily bear this modest tax.”
Harkin’s proposed tax would take effect January 1, 2013.