Last month, a United Nations panel held that cutting off water to Detroit residents suffering from high unemployment rates and low incomes, leaving them unable to afford their water bills, was a violation of basic human rights. This past weekend, actor Mark Ruffalo and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) joined close to a thousand protesters in a march organized by National Nurses United from Detroit’s Cobo Center to Hart Plaza. The chants of the crowd included “We got sold out, banks got bailed out." And there were renewed calls for a financial transaction tax, commonly referred to as a “Robin Hood tax.”
Currently, at the top of the New York Times bestseller list in non-fiction is Michael Lewis’ Flashboys; a detailed look at how the high-frequency computerized trading of stocks allowed sophisticated programmers to beat top institutional investors to trades and pocket millions. Lewis tells the story as a detective story, with a Royal Bank of Canada trader Brad Katsuyama as its protagonist, uncovering why his trades got delayed. While many reviews have focused on the need to better regulate the stock market to insure its fairness, less attention has been paid to a big reveal of the book.
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.
On one side of the rope, students, workers, a polar bear, a walrus and Robin Hood stood. On the other side, a series of fancily dressed Wall Street executives. The tug-of-war was over a proposed half penny tax on Wall Street transactions designed to raise billions of dollars to pay for education, climate change mitigation and the improvement of public infrastructure. That was the scene Thursday when working family activists who are part of the U.S. Robin Hood Tax Campaign rallied at Hotel Palomar in Washington, D.C., where finance and environmental ministers of select developed countries met.
A duo of Democratic lawmakers have spent the years since the financial crisis calling for a financial transactions tax, a small fee on individual trades that would slow down markets and make them safer for investors and the country as a whole. Sen. Tom Harkin (Iowa) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (Ore.) introduced legislation that would institute the financial transactions tax again this year, after 11 European countries announced they would adopt such a tax.
UPDATE: With a large number of House Republicans refusing to back asking millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share in taxes, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) pulled his “Plan B.” from the floor last night and adjourned the House. No negotiations between Republicans and the Obama White House on the expiring middle class tax cuts and automatic spending cuts set to go into effect Jan. 1 are scheduled. But a White House spokesman said, “The president will work with Congress to get this done, and we are hopeful that we will be able to find a bipartisan solution quickly that protects the middle class and our economy.”
If House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) “really wanted to address the true causes of our long-term budget imbalance, the last thing he would ask Congress to do is pass more wasteful tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans,” AFL-CIO Government Affairs Director Bill Samuel said in a letter to House members today.
As policymakers in the United States wrangle over how to avert the austerity bomb, the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favor of the financial transactions tax (FTT). The European FTT is expected to raise as much as €37 billion each year ($48 billion in U.S. dollars).
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is taking part in the L20’s June 18-19 meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico. Leaders of the 19 nations and the European Union who make up the L20 are discussing the global economic crises.
Yesterday, Trumka introduced International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde, and @AFLCIOLatino tweeted the exchange. Check it out.
With a nod to “The Twilight Zone’s” Rod Serling, National Nurses United (NNU) unveiled a new and frightening—if you’re a banker or Wall Street fat cat—video to push for a financial transaction or Robin Hood tax on Wall Street speculation.
The AFL-CIO is launching a campaign and gearing up its 700,000 online activists to tell Congress that the proposals by both Republicans and Democrats on the federal budget deficit “Super Committee” to slash Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are “simply unacceptable,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a telephone press conference this morning.