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Walter Frederickson: A tax for the people, not on the people

Opinion Editorial by: Walter Frederickson, R.N., 8/1/12

Oppinion Editorial by: Walter Frederickson, R.N.
Union Advocate - Aug. 1, 2012

Earlier this spring, I stood on the steamy streets of Chicago and witnessed a revival that my union brothers and sisters in the Windy City said was a long time coming. I’d been swept into town a day earlier along with hundreds of nurses, union members and others to help National Nurses United (of which MNA is a founding member) launch what quickly became a national movement – the call for a “Robin Hood Tax” on the “Too Big to Fail” banks and Wall Street speculators who created this financial nightmare.

NNU put on a visual spectacle that afternoon, one that included hundreds of nurses dressed in bright red scrub tops, green masks and the type of pointy hats everyone associates with Robin Hood. Dozens of nationally-recognized speakers and musicians took the stage to share their support, and my union friends in Chicago told me it had been far too long since the city had seen this type of peaceful, public protest filling its streets. While I like to think our colorful costumes and pointy hats had something to do with the energy and passion that was unleashed in and around Daley Plaza, the reality is this: People of all stripes are ready to embrace an idea whose time has come.
It’s a simple concept: Putting a small “Financial Trans-action Tax” of less than one-half of one percent on the types of speculative Wall Street financial transactions that created the global economic crisis we’re still trying to recover from.

A simple idea, sure, but one that carries the support of a powerful and diverse group of people, including Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Nobel Prize-winning economists and thought leaders, religious entities and faith leaders, politicians and many more – from nurses to firefighters to AIDS activists to environmentalists to small business owners.

In the U.S., the Robin Hood Tax has the power to raise hundreds of billions of dollars every year. It can provide funding for jobs and put our union brothers and sisters back to work. It can kick start the economy and get us back on our feet. It can provide education, health care and financial support for the least among us by funding social safety net programs. And that’s just for starters!

Best of all, the Robin Hood Tax won’t affect ordinary Americans. It won’t touch our personal savings or other everyday consumer activity such as ATM withdrawals or our use of debit cards. It’s easy to enforce and tough to evade.

This is a tax on Wall Street, which created the greatest economic crisis in our nation since the Great Depression. These are the same people who have returned to record profits and bonuses while ordinary Americans, the 99 percent, continue to pay the price of the 1 percent’s self-created financial meltdown. The Robin Hood Tax is not a tax on the people. Rather, it is a tax for the people.
Take a minute to learn more at www.RobinHoodTax.org. And if you want to don a pointy hat, wear a green mask and take to the streets to let people know about this growing movement, know this – I’m with you!

– Walter Frederickson, RN, is executive director of the Minnesota Nurses Association, a union of 20,000 nursing professionals.

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