Apr 17 2013

The Nation: A Robin Hood Response to the Austerity Lie: Tax Wall Street

America is not broke, despite what advocates for austerity would have us believe.

This is a very wealthy country.

Unfortunately, transfers of that wealth are not taxed in the same way as the work of American nurses, carpenters, bus drivers and shop clerks. As a result, the federal government struggles to balance budgets, and a yawning gap, between a super-rich 1 percent and the great mass of everybody else, keeps growing.

Congressman Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota, wants to do something about that.

Ellison is reintroducing his Inclusive Prosperity Act, a proposal to add a small “financial transactions tax” on high-volume, high-speed trading by Wall Street speculators. The tax—similar to one that the US imposed until 1966, and to taxes maintained by 40 countries worldwide—would generate roughly $1 trillion in revenue over 10 years.

That’s money that can help to stabilize federal finances and pay for programs that are currently threatened by the proponents of austerity.

So, as Ellison explains, “We’re not broke. We’ve got plenty of money. It’s just not in the hands of the American people because the people with so much of the wealth bought lobbyists and influence to get loopholes for themselves so that they would not have to pay for the civilization that is America.”

Ellison’s not listening to the lobbyists. He’s facing the facts.

“The money is in the hands of the most privileged and well-to-do Americans, many of whom churn—and I don’t say ‘trade,’ I mean ‘churn’—stocks, bonds and derivatives on Wall Street,” says the congressman from Minnesota who co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

“So one of the ways for us as Americans to recoup the money is to tax them when they do this churning of these financial assets,” he continued. “It’s a transaction tax. It is appropriately named by its most vigorous advocates a ‘Robin Hood Tax.’”

The Robin Hood Tax won’t solve all of America’s budget problems. But the union that has been leading the advocacy for passage of Ellison’s proposal, National Nurses United, notes that it “would create a Wall Street sales tax, providing critical new revenue for such critical needs as jobs, healthcare, education, and the international fight against HIV/AIDS and climate change. It would also allow the U.S. to join the rest of the world in a growing system of financial transaction taxes.”


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