HEAL AMERICA. TAX WALL STREET: As the most recent, sobering jobs report showed, the United States needs a jobs program, now. Unfortunately, President Obama does not have a Congress that will cooperate to implement one; he has a Congress that says the United States is broke.
That’s a lie. The country can fund wars of whim and back bailouts and tax breaks for billionaires. There is money. It’s just misallocated. The demand for a jobs program must be coupled with demands for better budgeting and new sources of revenue. To this end, on September 1 the activist union National Nurses United (NNU) took a bold new campaign to the offices of sixty-one members of Congress, calling it the National Day of Action to Tax Wall Street. Legislators were asked to sign a pledge to “support a Wall Street transaction tax that will raise sufficient revenue to make Wall Street pay for the devastation it has caused on Main Street.”
NNU co-president Deborah Burger says a tax on Wall Street trading of stocks, derivatives, currencies, credit default swaps and futures—the same speculative financial tools behind the recession—could raise hundreds of billions of dollars to pay for “desperately needed” programs. That’s not just idealism talking. It’s practical economics.
Writing for the New York Times, University of Massachusetts economics professor and MacArthur Fellow Nancy Folbre praised the Tax Wall Street campaign. “Purchases of stocks, bonds and other financial instruments in the United States go untaxed but for a tiny fee (less than a half-cent) on stock trades that helps finance the Securities and Exchange Commission,” she wrote. “In Britain, by contrast, a 0.5 percent tax on stock transactions raises about $40 billion a year. President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany recently announced plans to introduce a similar tax in the 27 nations of the European Community…. Our current tax policies favor speculative investment in financial instruments over productive investments in human capabilities. This imbalance helps explain why nurses unions in the United States have been particularly outspoken advocates of a financial transactions tax. As they put it: ‘Heal America. Tax Wall Street.’” JOHN NICHOLS
A WIN AGAINST MEGABANKS: In a victory for community and labor activists, the Federal Reserve announced in late August that it would extend the public comment period on the proposed acquisition by Capital One of the online bank ING Direct by fifty-one days; the merger would create the fifth-largest bank in America. The Fed also scheduled a series of public hearings across the country that activists hope to use as a forum to expose the bad practices of megabanks—in particular, the notorious subprime credit card lender Capital One.
“Make no mistake about it, this was purely driven by advocates pushing for a slowdown of a normally quick and dirty process for approving these mergers,” says National Community Reinvestment Coalition president and CEO John Taylor, who is helping lead a coalition of more than 200 community, faith and labor groups opposed to the merger. “It’s a real victory because anytime you can lift up the veil of secrecy, you can stop bad things from happening.”