CROWD: This is what democracy looks like! Show me what democracy looks like!
JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Marching towards the capital of U.S. democracy, supporters of the financial transaction tax came to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to send a message.
DEBORAH BURGER, COPRESIDENT, NATIONAL NURSES UNITED: Whenever we go to our communities and the representatives that are elected in Congress to clean the air, to increase funding for education, to improve our roads, improve the infrastructure in our country, we’re always told there’s not enough money, there’s other priorities. And we actually have an answer, which is the financial transactions tax, or the Robin Hood tax.
DESVARIEUX: The Robin Hood tax is a tax that would charge 0.5 percent on stock trades. That means that for every $100 of stock trades, there would be a $0.50 tax on bankers and brokers.
The bill, the Inclusive Prosperity Act, was introduced by Democratic Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison and now has 17 cosponsors, all Democrats. Representative Ellison said that the passage of the bill could generate $350 billion in new revenue each year.
KEITH ELLISON, U.S. REPRESENTATIVE (D-MN): America’s not a poor country. America’s a rich country. But the money is going to the tip top and not to the people. And so we have got to fight to reorder our economy. We’ve got to fight to make a fair economy. And the fight starts with this Inclusive Prosperity Act.
DESVARIEUX: The Real News spoke with Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who is one of the cosponsors of the bill, and aksed why only 17 out of the 191 House Democrats actually support the bill.
BARBARA LEE, U.S. REPRESENTATIVE (D-CA): Democrats and Republicans sooner or later are going to come to grips with the fact that this country, the American people, bailed Wall Street out. Now it’s time for Wall Street to help people live the American dream. Three hundred and fifty billion dollar transaction tax—it’s not a lot of money. But that’s enough to really get our economy going and provide the jobs that people so desperately need. So we’re going to build the support. And people here, as you see, are fired up and going to organize around the country. And believe you me, Democrats and Republicans sooner or later will come on board.
DESVARIEUX: But who is on board already? Notables in the business world like Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and George Soros are in favor of the tax. And now 163 well-known economists and financial experts have drafted a letter of support that includes renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs, who said that the Robin Hood tax represents tax justice.
JEFFREY SACHS, DIRECTOR, EARTH INSTITUTE, COLUMBIA UNIV.: The financial markets destabilized the world economy. They need to be regulated and taxed adequately, fairly, appropriately. The financial transactions tax is an important part of what should be an overall reform of the financial system. I’m delighted that Europe is moving ahead with the financial transactions tax. The United States needs to do the same.
DESVARIEUX: In Europe, 11 member countries of the E.U. have agreed to a transaction tax. Vice President of the European Parliament Anni Podimata says it was an uphill battle getting it passed. But she added that she’ s confident that it can become a reality even in today’s political climate.
ANNI PODIMATA, VICE PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT: I’m saying that it is politically unacceptable to have been increasing taxes on labor and pensioners and give in to lobbyists claiming that the industry will not be able to withstand this tiny tax.
DESVARIEUX: But this tiny tax, critics argue, will hurt the economy. But professor of corporate and business law at Cornell University Lynn Stout says that history tells a different story.
PROF. LYNN STOUT, CORNELL UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL: Not only did we have a financial transaction tax in this country up until 1966, but in fact for other reasons, including brokers who imposed fix commissions of 8 percent on trades, we had much, much higher transactions costs on financial transactions in this country, and the market seemed to work just fine.
You know, we live in a country where things are taxed. When you work hard, your wages are taxed. When you buy a car, the transaction is taxed. When you buy a house, the transaction is taxed. When you buy a tube of toothpaste or a pair of socks, the transaction is taxed. What is not taxed? Speculating in stocks, bonds, and derivatives.
UNIDENTIFIED: That ain’t right.
STOUT: That’s crazy. That means we’re essentially subsidizing speculation in financial instruments.
DESVARIEUX: Subsidizing financial instruments is exactly what nurses of National Nurses United want to end. They made more than 90 visits to congressional offices to make their case.
And this one group from Massachusetts met with an aide from Democrat Stephen Lynch’s office in order to solicit more support.
UNIDENTIFIED: There’s a lot of things that are lacking with the people, the patients that I actually take care of: their ability to be able to take care of their children, their ability to be able to work. And I feel that this money would do great good.
DESVARIEUX: For The Real News Network, Jessica Desvarieux, Washington.