With Americans marking the 47th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. just days earlier, abroad coalition of registered nurses, organized labor, anti-AIDS advocates, college students, clergy and other community activists will converge on 25 US cities Wednesday, April 8, to amplify the call for a Wall Street financial transactions tax to reverse the country’s crippling inequality.
Economists estimate that a tiny surcharge of no more than a nickel on every $10 in trades of stocks, bond and derivatives – a tax that is proportionally smaller than what most Americans pay fora pair of shoes – could increase revenues collected by the Treasury Department by as much as $350 billion annually.
That revenue, in turn, can be re-directed from wealthy investors, who have surplus income, to poor and working-class Americans who don’t have nearly enough. Guaranteeing health care for all, eradicating AIDS, student debt relief, funding jobs at living wages, infrastructure repair and fighting climate change are among the programs that could be funded by a financial transactions levy, nicknamed the “Robin Hood Tax.”
The Robin Hood coalition will hold vigils in Dr. King’s memory outside Congressional offices in Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Vermont, followed by visits to legislators asking them to support the Robin Hood Tax.
See a full list of the sites and actions of the vigils here.
Just last month, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota) reintroduced HR 1464, or the Inclusive Prosperity Act. The bill embodies the Robin Hood Campaign which is widely viewed as inspired by King’s poetic reimagining of the nation asa “Beloved Community” in which wealth is shared, material needs met and finance is a tool of the people.
The campaign is endorsed by 172 national organizations, including National Nurses United, the largest US organization of nurses; National People’s Action, a network of grassroots campaigns; the Moral Monday movement and Health GAP; and scores of economists and iconic figures, such as South African Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu and Microsoft magnate Bill Gates.
King was fatally shot April 4, 1968, outside a hotel in Memphis, where he’d traveled to support striking garbage handlers demanding better pay and a safer workplace.
“Our goal,” King wrote in the introduction of a 1957 Southern Christian Leadership Conference pamphlet, “is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.”
“Inequality in health, still rampant hunger, homelessness and poverty, all critical causes of Dr. King’s life, continue todevastate far too many families. We need the Robin Hood Tax to protect our health, our families, our communities and our nation,” said NNU Co-President Deborah Burger, RN.
“America’s working families need their country to invest in them again,” Rep. Ellison said. “The money raised from a wafer-thin tax on Wall Street’s high-frequency trades could raise hundreds of billions of dollars to invest in our families, protect our environment and increase opportunity for all Americans. If the United States joins the dozens of other nations already benefiting from a financial transaction tax, we can create millions of jobs, while also reducing dangerous market volatility.”
“Dr. King reminded us that every human being is a child of God made in God’s image, and therefore deserves to be respected as such,” said Rev. Rodney Sadler, professor at the Union Presbyterian Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina, and a leader of the Moral Mondays civil rights movement in North Carolina. “This tax will allow us as anation to offset human suffering without increasing our national debt and provide a modicum of relief for the least, the lost, and the otherwise left out.”
HR 1464 is patterned after a similar tax being implemented by 11 European countries, and already in place in every major financial world market except the United States. It would not affect households earning less than $75,000 annually. Instead, its principal targets are the wealthiest Americans whose reckless speculation fueled the Great Recession that began in December of 2007: bankers, brokers, and rich investors who own most of the nation’s stocks and bonds.