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.