Editor’s Note: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.

If you want to know just how bad things are for those hit hardest by the Great Recession, ask a nurse: They see more young men suffering heart attacks, more anxiety in children and more ulcers and stomach illnesses in people of all ages. Financial struggles are forcing more patients to forgo necessary medicines and treatments. A Princeton/Georgia State study reports a 39 percent increase in ER admissions for suicide attempts precipitated by home foreclosures, and a direct correlation between foreclosure rates and increases in emergency-room visits and hospitalization for hypertension, diabetes and anxiety.

Given this widespread hardship and pain, it makes sense that nurses who are on the frontlines in our communities every day are leading an effort to hold Wall Street accountable for causing these economic troubles while raising hundreds of billions of dollars for vital human needs.

National Nurses United (NNU), the nation’s largest union and professional association of nurses, representing 170,000 RNs, is out in the streets, in congressional offices and just last week in Liberty Park with the Occupy Wall Street protesters pushing a good idea that has been around for decades and whose time has come: a financial-transactions tax. This is a small levy on trades of stocks, derivatives and currencies meant to curb short-term speculation while raising massive revenue for urgent needs.

Since June, thousands of nurses have protested on Wall Street, at the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington and the Federal Reserve Bank in San Francisco, as well as participated in actions ranging from working in soup kitchens to staging sit-ins at 60 district congressional offices in 21 states to lead the fight for this common-sense measure.

"In my practice as a staff nurse in a downtown Boston teaching hospital, I am seeing the effects of this crisis every day," said Massachusetts RN Ann Marie McDonagh. "A nurses’ union must do so much more than just negotiate fair pay and decent working conditions. It must use its power to promote the overall well being of its members and the public they care for."

Last month, at NNUs convention in San Francisco, filmmaker Michael Moore praised the union for its creativity and initiative. "It’s so necessary," said Moore. "Your movement on [this tax] is genius; it has to happen."

Moore is onto something.

Editor’s Note: Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.

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