On the eve of Occupy Wall Street’s first anniversary, Congressman Keith Ellison introduced a much-needed common sense bill: HR 6411, the Inclusive Prosperity Act. The bill taxes financial transactions to generate revenue for social needs. Amid our consensus-narrowed, deficit-obsessed political debate, it’s a call to arms, and a breath of fresh air.
As I’ve often argued, a financial transaction tax is deeply pragmatic, broadly popular and sorely needed. At a time when budget slashing is a bipartisan obsession, it offers vital revenue. As we struggle to escape the recession wrought by the 1 percent, it presents a simple solution to discourage speculation. As progressives fight too many defensive battles, the financial transaction tax presents an urgent opportunity to go on offense.
Victory won’t come easy. Sarah Anderson, who directs the Global Economy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, notes that “Obama’s communications director was asked about this at a press event during the convention and didn’t get an enthusiastic response. So that was a disappointing moment.”
But the FTT would never have made it thus far without sustained and savvy organizing. Groups like National Nurses United, National People’s Action, and Health GAP have been tenacious in forcing the FTT onto the agenda. Their European counterparts have forged a critical mass of support within the EU. And they’re backed on both sides of the pond by a slew of economists and financial professionals who wield common sense against Chicken Little lobbyists.
“I think people are really touched by how much passion there is around this issue,” says Anderson, “and the fact that they’re drawing such diverse groups together around this tax idea.”
Ellison’s bill would raise up to $350 billion through a small tax on stock, bond, derivative and currency trading.
According to a statement from Ellison’s office, the revenue could go to programs including infrastructure, job creation and global health. Congressman Ellison noted that:
The American public provided hundreds of billions to bailout Wall Street during the global fiscal crisis yet bore the brunt of the crisis with lost jobs and reduced household wealth. This is a phenomenally wealthy nation, yet our tax and regulatory system allowed the financial titans to amass great riches while impoverishing the systems that enable inclusive prosperity.
Ellison has it right: America isn’t broke. And the poor and the middle class aren’t the ones we should be looking to for sacrifice.