After Campaign by Nurses, Allies, Obama Shifts Stance on Financial Transaction Tax
November 4, 2011
Obama Tells Europe "Go For It"
On a day 2,000 people marched on the White House and Treasury Department, one of four major actions led by National Nurses United (NNU) following months of actions by nurses and allies, the Obama administration appeared to send signals Thursday of shifting away from its opposition to a tax on financial transactions (FTT).
Months of actions by nurses, and growing pressure from an international movement for a "Robin Hood Tax," led by the global union federations Public Services International, the International Trade Union Confederation, Oxfam, and many others, and protests at home by Occupy Wall Street, and campaigning by labor and consumer groups to tax Wall Street apparently have had an effect on the president.
For the first time, the administration indicated that it was easing its opposition to an FTT. As Reuters put it, the U.S. "would not block others from going ahead." A Wall Street Journal analysis concluded that President Obama told European leaders who favor an FTT, including the more conservative presidents of Germany and France, to "go for it."
But as nurses and many allies from the labor, Occupy Wall Street movement, and environmental, consumer, and community groups made clear Thursday, they will continue to press for a meaningful tax to help raise revenue to heal the U.S. and global economies.
"A real finance tax would generate $350 billion a year in the U.S. alone and bring relief to families out of homes, friends out of work, patients out of care, communities running out of time," said NNU Co-president Karen Higgins, RN to a huge Washington rally of nurses from across the U.S., as well as the AFL-CIO, more than a dozen international unions, Occupy Wall Street activists from New York and Washington, and consumer and environmental groups.
An international group of nurses and Oxfam spokesman and actor Bill
Nighy during a press conference at the G20 summit in Cannes, France
promoting a Financial Transaction Tax. See more images here.
Nurses gather outside the White House to call for an FTT. See more images here.
Concurrently, at the G-20 summit in Cannes, France, where on Tuesday nurses from four continents joined marchers protesting G-20 austerity measures, NNU furthered its calls for a global finance tax.
"I'm incredibly proud of the nurses internationally for their global advocacy for their patients and society," said RoseAnn DeMoro, NNU executive director, at a press conference in Cannes. "The nurses don't ever give up on people and we won't give up on this cause." DeMoro spoke at a press conference with leaders of the international trade union movement, actor and British actor and Oxfam Global Ambassador Bill Nighy, and the World Wildlife Fund
In Washington, D.C., marchers converged on the White House and Treasury Department, where in both locations a contingent of nurses from Massachusetts spelling a message with individual letters: "HEAL AMERICA, TAX TIMMY'S FRIENDS," a reference to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who has lobbied here and abroad to block a finance tax.
Hundreds of RNs also marched Thursday through the financial districts in Los Angeles and San Francisco bearing signs urging "Heal America, Tax Wall Street."
NNU and thousands of its RN members have campaigned for months for a tax on Wall Street - specifically a tax on stocks, bonds, derivatives and other financial transactions - with large protests in June in Washington and on Wall Street, and at Congressional offices across the U.S.
These actions have coincided with a widespread international demand for a global FTT, led by international labor, environmental, and community organizations, and growing demands in the U.S. for restitution from Wall Street, most symbolized by many of those joining Occupy Wall Street protests across the U.S.
Signs of a first shift by the Obama administration Thursday indicate all the pressure has had an effect.
At the Washington rally Thursday, legendary consumer advocate Ralph Nader, a longtime proponent of an FTT, praised NNU's role, saying "they're going to change the country."
"Protests matter. Pressure matters," concluded John Nichols of The Nation, writing about the shifting sands in the White House, and noting NNU's role and the erupting support for an FTT that now includes billionaire Bill Gates and the Pope. "The nurses aren't just making noise. It looks like they're changing the debate, altering the policies of the most powerful players in Washington--and perhaps the world."