Tax on financial transactions needed

By: John Karebian, executive director of the Michigan Nurses Association
Lansing State Journal
Nov. 22, 2011

Supercommittee could have used this to solve budget, deficit woes

The only thing politicians seemed to agree on about the debt-reduction supercommittee was that "everything is on the table."

If that were true, though, these leaders, including Michigan's Fred Upton and Dave Camp, would have considered a solution that works for the 99 percent and makes the 1 percent pay their fair share.

That solution is a financial transaction tax - a minuscule fee on Wall Street trading that's used effectively in more than 40 countries, including those in the world's seven fastest-growing financial markets.

As tireless advocates for their patients at the bedside and beyond, Michigan nurses have pushed this solution to support America's workers and families who are struggling while corporations collect record profits at their expense.

A tax of less than one percent on activities like stock trades and derivative sales could raise up to $350 billion to immediately put people to work and protect essential safety net programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

The tax would target the big banks and Wall Street traders who gambled with Americans' mortgages and pensions and crashed our economy. It would also discourage excessive speculation, the main cause of the 2008 crash.

Our country is in this mess because politicians sold out working men and women to reckless banks and Wall Street gamblers whose unchecked greed threw us into a recession. Then they gave those corporations trillions in taxpayer bailouts to support the richest powerful Americans, leaving Michigan mired in double-digit unemployment, foreclosures, and rising poverty.

Michigan's nurses see the human suffering that this ongoing economic crisis has caused every day in their patients' lives. They've called on Congress to rebuild our country by supporting our Main Street Contract for the American People. The contract focuses on jobs at living wages; quality education; guaranteed health care; secure retirement; good housing and protection from hunger; a safe and healthy environment; and a just taxation system where corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share - including the financial transaction tax.
The U.S. had a financial transaction tax for decades, up to 1966, and many have tried to bring it back. It's no surprise that they find little support in Washington, where the corporations and CEOs who write campaign checks have more say than ordinary working Americans.

Rep. Camp, for example, is pushing to cut corporate taxes, although dozens of profitable multibillion-dollar corporations go years without paying a dollar in taxes, yet still pay their CEOs huge bonuses and donate plenty to politicians.

No, without a tax on Wall Street, "everything" has not been on the table - especially not the values of the 99 percent, including accountability, taking care of each other and paying one's fair share.

The window has closed for the supercommittee to heal our nation's broken priorities and create an economy that works for everyone.

The doors are wide open now, though, for citizens to demand louder than ever that our leaders stop protecting their campaign donors on Wall Street and start supporting our workers and families on Main Street.