TOBIN TAX ON THE TABLE:
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown surprised just about everyone when he encouraged G-20 finance ministers to consider establishing a global financial transaction tax–sometimes referred to as a "Tobin Tax" out of respect for pioneering proposals advanced by Nobel Prize-winning economist James Tobin–as a means of reducing speculation in global markets and raising resources for social spending. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner immediately rejected the idea of taxing speculators, but Oxfam policy adviser Max Lawson said, "The fact you’ve got Gordon Brown coming out and saying this is a real turning point. It puts the issue on the political map."
Working to keep it on the map, despite what Geithner says, is Oregon Democratic Congressman Peter DeFazio, long an advocate for transaction taxes. DeFazio has found twenty-nine co-sponsors for legislation that would tax speculation in crude oil futures. He’s also attracted thirteen co-sponsors for a more ambitious proposal to tax securities transactions to the extent required to recoup the net cost of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which is delightfully titled the Let Wall Street Pay for Wall Street’s Bailout Act of 2009. JOHN NICHOLS
IMPASSE IN PALESTINE:
With his decision not to run for re-election in January as pres- ident of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas may be marking the end of an era. The PA, established fifteen years ago after the Oslo Accords, was conceived as a temporary authority, pending a negotiated solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. But ever since the failure of the 2000 Camp David summit and the eruption of the second intifada, the "peace process" has been on life support. Recent events seem to call for last rites.
The death blow may have been the Obama administration’s acquiescence in Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal to freeze settlement growth. Abbas and his colleagues could justifiably ask, If this administration–considered too Arab-friendly by many Israelis–won’t stand up to Netanyahu on this issue, what’s the point of continuing? What is there left to negotiate if Israel is allowed to keep swallowing Palestinian land?
This was only the latest insult–Abbas and his cohort had already lost most of the last shreds of credibility when they bowed to US and Israeli pressure to delay endorsement of the UN’s Goldstone Report alleging Israeli and Hamas war crimes in the recent Gaza conflict. The PA’s quick reversal, after a storm of protest, did nothing to regain favor with the Palestinian public. And the decision of the US Congress to condemn the Goldstone Report by a 344-36 margin (the scant opposition included Dennis Kucinich, Jim McGovern, Keith Ellison, John Dingell, Ron Paul and Lynn Woolsey) could not encourage anyone hoping for a change in US policy. All these humiliations were merely the capstone of sixteen years of vain hopes that Oslo-brokered negotiations would lead to independence and Palestinian statehood, rather than rapidly expanded Israeli colonization of the West Bank.