Kacey Dreamer reports on the resumption of a movement to tax financial transactions, with some high-profile supporters. In the past certain progressive organizations had a financial transaction tax as part of their overall strategy, but they did not have a campaign specifically designed around it. That’s the difference with the current Robin Hood Tax campaign, which has been imported from Europe. Some of the same groups, like National People’s Action, are involved in the Robin Hood Tax campaign, but it puts the financial transaction tax front and center.
The basic idea behind a financial transaction tax is to levy a small tax – less than one-half of 1% – on all financial transactions which go through an exchange or clearinghouse. This would be an almost unseen payment to the average investor, but with volumes on Wall Street, it would pile up money in a hurry. The organizers believe that an FTT could raise hundreds of billions of dollars, which could be channeled into job creation, anti-poverty and climate change programs. In addition, the cost would tend to discourage speculative behavior without social utility, like high-frequency trading. So in addition to the money an FTT would raise, it would limit some of the riskiest behavior in the financial system.
Actor Mark Ruffalo, musicians Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine) and Chris Martin (Coldplay), economists Jeffrey Sachs, Joseph Stiglitz and Larry Mishel (EPI), and Bishop Desmond Tutu have endorsed the FTT as part of the US coalition. National Nurses United, one of the leading labor groups on this issue, has taken a role in this project as well. They have planned rallies in 15 US cities over the course of the week. The three aforementioned celebrities appear in the above video. One of the street actions includes encouraging people to draw Robin Hood masks on dollar bills.
The US actually invoked a “Robin Hood tax” from 1914 to 1966, a tax levied on the sale of every stock. Right now, forty countries have some version of an FTT in place, and it’s close to becoming reality across the Eurozone.
Given our current captured Congress, I don’t expect an FTT to emerge anytime soon. However, it’s important to prepare for exigencies during times of reform and change, and the FTT ought to be in the toolkit of long-term progressive reforms.