Sign Up for Updates

News

Feed our children, tax Wall Street

SFGate.com, 11/27/13

By RoseAnn DeMoro, CNA/NNU Executive Director

Originally Published 5:33 pm, Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - SFGate.com

As the grocery bags suddenly become half-empty and too many kids start going hungry, a lot of people are going to ask: "Where can we find the money to feed our children?" Here's one source, probably the biggest untapped revenue source in our nation - Wall Street.

A simple tax on Wall Street speculation, as embodied in a bill now before Congress, HR1579, would raise enough money to feed 24 million families of four for a full year, according to the Institute for Health & Socio-Economic Policy, based on U.S. Department of Agriculture data. The institute is the research arm of National Nurses United.

It's hard to imagine a greater moral crisis facing our country. With Congress' $39 billion cut to the food stamp program in September and the expiration of supplemental aid from the 2009 stimulus package, 48 million Americans are getting slammed with a 13 percent cut in their food assistance. As veteran journalist Elizabeth Drew wrote recently in Rolling Stone, before food stamps, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program was enacted, doctors routinely reported widespread hunger in America. In 1967, they cited "child after child," plagued by vitamin and mineral deficiencies, ulcerations, bone diseases correlated to poor food intake and bacterial and parasitic diseases.

Food stamps did not end hunger in the United States, but they had a huge effect on people's lives - leading directly to a significant reduction in malnutrition, especially among the working poor.

Budget-cutting obsessed politicians, those same legislators who subsidize corporations with tax breaks, and Fox News likes to trumpet anecdotes of healthy young men buying lobster with food stamps, but the reality is far different. Nearly half of all Americans who depend on food stamps are children.

The cut in food stamp benefits will affect more than 4 million Californians alone. Food banks already feel the effects. San Francisco and Marin Food Banks assist 147,000 people every week who may have to now choose between buying milk for a child or filling a needed prescription, program officials warn.

Nurses already see the effects of malnutrition, complicated by a persistent recession for the working poor, in hospitals across the country, with children presenting with diseases more associated with adults. They include stress-induced heart ailments, pancreatitis, hypertension and colitis and other "gut" disorders.

With the congressional "super committee" beginning to meet in preparation for the next budget showdown in Washington, nurses also have a message: Let's get the revenue we need to reverse this disgrace.

HR1579, endorsed by 160 national health care, community, faith and labor organizations, and 163 prominent economists and financial experts, in a letter presented to Congress last month, is a way out of our cyclical budget crises. With a tax of just 50 cents on every $100 of stock trades, and less on bonds, derivatives and other financial transactions, we could raise up to $350 billion a year to pay for more jobs, health care, education, fighting climate change, and, yes, hunger.

It's like a sales tax we all pay for most consumer goods. Who doesn't pay a sales tax? The high rollers on Wall Street whose reckless gambling created the 2008 crash that threw so many out of their homes and into the soup kitchens. We've seen enough austerity, enough pain and suffering on Main Street. Let's feed our children, and make Wall Street do its part to pay the bill.

RoseAnn DeMoro is the executive director of the California Nurses Association and National Nurses United.

Back to News »