FTT: RX for a Sick Economy

Republished from National Nurses United’s Blog
By Rose Ann DeMoro
November 10, 2011

Amidst the scourge of inequality sweeping the world, marked by continued profits, pay-outs and record levels of cash hoarding — the spoils of the 1% — one group has come forward with a remedy, refusing to stand down. Nurses from four continents gathered at the G-20 Summit last week to tell world leaders that time is running out: revenue is needed now and the starting point is a global finance tax.

That call for remedy is resonating. It is loud and it is getting louder, and half measure legislation is not a substitute for a movement.

Just last week, in addition to the actions at the G-20, 2,000 people, including RN members of National Nurses United joined by the AFL-CIO and other unions, environmental and community groups, and participants from the Occupy Wall Street movement, marched on the White House and Treasury Department.

Like the nurses at the G-20, they were calling on the Obama administration to support a tax on Wall Street, the U.S. version of a financial transaction tax to raise desperately needed revenue to heal our economy. Similar marches occurred in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Nurses have been rallying for months, and putting pressure on the White House and members of Congress to support a meaningful tax on Wall Street to provide the funding necessary for such basic needs as health care for all, jobs with dignity, and quality public education.

An FTT, a sales tax on trading in stocks, bonds, derivatives and targeting speculative activity, is now on the world agenda. For the first time, the 20 most powerful countries convened to discuss raising revenue from such a tax.

Pressure is also mounting within the U.S. One bill by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), has been introduced. However, the estimates cited in print of $350 billion are over nine years — far short of what is needed to reframe our devastated economy. We do not have nine years to wait. A better approach would be an FTT that raises $350 billion every year.

Moreover, the revenue in the current bill is earmarked for deficit reduction, i.e. further job reduction and infrastructure destruction which would only make matters worse. There are trillions of dollars sitting idle or wasted in the market casino, as such, and we are building a social demand for the FTT to be used as an economic stimulator and to reorganize the social priorities of our country. The 99% want a solution now that actually changes our lives now.

FTT proposals share critical underpinnings: speculation and manipulation in financial markets triggered collapse from which the world has not emerged; poverty and near-poverty are rampant and spreading, engulfing millions of families in the U.S. alone; financial profits should be tapped for meaningful revenues to save the many communities in crisis; and financial taxes are a starting point— a down payment. In this country today we are witnessing the greatest transference of wealth upwards in our entire history. That dynamic, here and elsewhere, must stop now.

The financial tax the nurses support would provide up to $350 billion every year in the U.S. alone and billions more in other societies. We know what is needed to put Americans back to work, provide quality health care and schools for all, to start restoring our environment and address hunger and homelessness. “The number of people living in neighborhoods of extreme poverty,” wrote the New York Times on November 4, “grew by a third over the past decade….” Nearly 50 million Americans live in households deemed “food insecure.”

Wall Street firms, in the meantime, including banks and their trading arms — are making massive fortunes, “more profit in the first 2 1/2 years of the Obama administration than they did during the entire Bush administration,” according to the Washington Post, November 6.

We also know that in the face of overwhelming community need, trillions of dollars sit on the sidelines. Trillions.

Cash holdings of non-financial S&P 500 are over $1 trillion–“more cash than in decades,” according to the Templeton Income Fund, with cash held abroad by U.S. companies adding $1.5 trillion. Cash holdings at European non-financials is now 800 million euros, putting Greek protests in some perspective. Trillions more sit in the accounts of wealthy individuals on both continents.

“How can the financial sector triumphantly continue to march,” said President Sarkozy of France at the G-20, “indifferent to the world around it, carelessly and without a care for the disorder it has more than its share in causing?” German Chancellor Merkel agreed. And President Obama, disregarding the unwavering counsel of Treasury Secretary Geithner to leave Wall Street to its own devices, indicated that while not favoring the tax he would not seek to block others from enacting it.

Sarkozy, Merkel and Obama were listening when thousands protested, including the nurses, last week in France — an outcry of global proportions certain to repeat. An array of support comprised this protest — Oxfam, unions, consumer groups, ecologists, Occupy Wall Street and other armies of occupiers — all committed to a reordering of world priorities and in support of a finance tax. “[A] billion people [are] on the edge of starvation or worse, but not beyond reach by any means,” said Noam Chomsky on November 2. We won’t stand down in the face of this challenge.

This extraordinary commitment to cash by the 1% is incendiary.

Meanwhile, Congress considers cutting essential programs, including in Social Security and Medicare. All these programs are on the cutting block even as the Census Bureau announces increases in poverty. Millions more would be in poverty, the new study contends, but for the programs government intends to curtail.

Nurses will continue to focus on building a movement. The nurses bear daily witness to the awful effects of the colossal demise engulfing communities everywhere and we will not stand down. The nurses commitment to care does not end at the bedside.

For more about the movement in the U.S. as well as globally, and to find materials, literature, bumper stickers, and more, visit our website at www.mainstreetcontract.org.