Nurses to Congress: Invest in working America, support Wall Street tax

National Nurses United (NNU) announced yesterday that on September 1, its members will deliver this message to members of Congress: People are hurting because of the fallout from the financial crisis caused by Wall Street speculation. We need a huge public investment to end this pain. Tax Wall Street’s speculative financial transactions to pay for this investment.

“It’s time for Wall Street financiers, who created this crisis and continue to hold so much of the nation’s wealth, to start contributing to rebuild this country, and for the American people to reclaim our future,” said NNU Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro.

Members of NNU, the nation’s largest union and professional association of nurses, will visit local offices of 60 members of Congress and ask them 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.”

Nancy Folbre, an economist at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, wrote Monday in the New York Times that a 0.5 percent tax on trades of stocks, bonds, derivatives, currencies, credit default swaps, future options, and other exotic speculative transactions could generate up to $175 billion annually.

Money raised by the Wall Street tax could be used to upgrade our country’s decaying infrastructure, build schools, provide health care, and make thousands of other public investments that create jobs and improve the lives of working Americans. Public investment is “desperately needed to reduce the pain and suffering felt by so many families who feel abandoned in communities across this nation,” said NNU Co-President Deborah Burger, RN.

Opponents of a Wall Street tax say that it will discourage investment, but economist Mark Thoma, who blogs daily at Economist’s View, says that the only trades affected by the tax will be short-term speculation, much of which has little social value. Short-term speculation, according to Thoma, “pushes money around among winners and losers, and traders like it for that reason, but if this activity is discouraged through taxation it would have little effect on long-term investment decisions by firms.”

A tax on speculation has even won favor among conservative governments in France and Germany. The Wall Street Journal reports that French Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will propose a plan for taxing financial transaction to European institutions in September. The United Kingdom already has a financial transaction tax in place that generates $40 billion a year.

In addition to converging on local congressional offices, NNU will also hold rallies, speak-outs, and street theater in urban areas throughout the nation. They will also staff soup kitchens to feed the hungry and homeless.

NNU’s September 1 activity is part of the union’s ongoing campaign to “Heal America; Make Wall Street Pay,” whose purpose is to get Americans back to work, provide health care to all, and help the working class regain some of the ground we’ve lost over the last 30 years by generating funding for public investments.

“America’s nurses see every day the broad declines in health and living standards that are a direct result of patients and families struggling with lack of jobs, un-payable medical bills, hunger and homelessness. We know where to find the resources to bring them hope and real solutions,” said NNU Co-president Karen Higgins, RN.

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6 thoughts on “Nurses to Congress: Invest in working America, support Wall Street tax

  1. Wow ! Someone other than ” Joe taxpayer” footing the bill ? What a novel idea ! Speculators – speculation is draining us all !

  2. Do you know if the proposed law exempts trades in IRA’s and 401(k)’s? Insofar as working people have any “skin in the game” in the Wall Street financial system, it is mainly through such retirement accounts. More and more employers are trying to end traditional pension plans and make workers take all the risks for their own retirement resources with individual accounts.

    • I don’t know if public pension funds would be exempt from the tax. My own opinion is that they should be taxed. Public pension funds have been engaging in more speculative activity over the last 10 years. There may be a good reason for it, but increased speculation has made our economies less stable. If institutions or individuals want to speculate, a small portion of their speculative activity (and the tax on speculation proposed by NNU is quite small) should go toward benefitting the working class, who are the ones who suffer the most when a financial crisis causes another recession.

      Will

  3. Will–I agree with you on public pension funds. State & local governments have been encouraging more speculative investment by their pension funds–to try to get higher returns in order to make up for the money that is NOT coming in from government appropriations. In other words, governments are not wanting to properly fund their employees’ pension funds–in many cases REDUCING government contributions, and they’re wanting the fund managers to make more risky investments to try to get higher returns. We want to discourage this speculative investment and make the governments pay up. In the case of the state of Texas, what’s needed is just for the state to go BACK to what it was paying in the ’90s. It can well afford it.

    BUT THAT’S NOT WHAT I WAS REFERRING TO IN MY COMMENT. I was talking about INDIVIDUAL accounts–what corporations, politicians, and Wall Street want us to go to after they’ve trashed our pension systems. I think individuals should be able to make a reasonable number of trades in their individual retirment accounts before they have to start paying such a tax.

    Overall, the tax on trades is a great idea. As you say, what’s proposed is a small amount per trade, and only speculators will be significantly affected by it.

  4. Have to disagree with you Leslie. If you engage in speculative financial transactions, you ought to help pay for any fallout they cause.

  5. But, Will, a “transaction” can be a worker buying shares in a mutual fund when he/she puts new money in his/her 401(K). Or “rebalancing” the stuff he/she owns in the 401(k) to make the allocations more “conservative” as the person gets older. Is this speculation?

    Maybe I’m not understanding right. I don’t want to make too big a deal about it, because the “transactions” made by the worker will be few compared to the speculator.

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