March 5, 2012
By Marc Bussanich, LaborPress City Reporter
The National Nurses United, the largest U.S. union and professional association of nurses, will be leading a rally at the G8 Summit in Chicago in May to call for the leading industrialized countries to enact a financial transaction tax on major trading by different financial institutions in order to raise the necessary revenue to sustain investments in housing, education and healthcare.

NNU has been advocating for the FTT for some time. According to Karen Higgins, Co-president and RN of the NNU, a direct result of the NNU’s activities have led to more people in and out of labor agreeing with the union that the FTT is a “reasonable place to start to make significant changes in the country.”

She said that the union’s call for the FTT enjoys wide support among different local unions. “The Greater Boston Labor Council, which represents over 90,000 members, supports the FTT.”

She noted that at one time Wall Street was taxed for financial transactions, but the tax was abandoned back in the 1960s.

“It’s unbelievable that there’s no tax on these types of transactions, while the rest of us have to pay taxes on the things we need,” Higgins said.

The union is advocating for and calling on Congress to enact a .05 percent on the “trading of stocks, bonds, currencies, derivatives and other financial instruments that could raise $350 billion ever year.” Higgins said the revenue generated from the tax could be used to balance budgets and create jobs without relying on austerity measures to achieve fiscal health.

According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, an independent, nonpartisan think tank, the Wall Street Trading and Speculators Tax, introduced by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR), calls for a “modest 0.03 percent [FTT] on the trading of stocks, futures, bonds and credit default swaps.”

Although the Harkin and DeFazio tax would have a “minimal effect on individual 401(k) or mutual funds,” the bill would impose “substantial costs on those who are engaged in short-term trading strategies that can lead to disruptions in markets,” noted the CEPR.

The European Union is also considering enacting an FTT tax, and one already exists in the United Kingdom that raises 0.2 to 0.3 percent of GDP (the equivalent of $30 to $40 billion a year in the U.S.) based on taxing stocks alone, the CEPR reports.

But Higgins said that the union’s proposal is more robust. “Our plan would generate $350 billion annually, while the congressional proposal [Harkin and DeFazio] would raise $350 billion over ten years.”  

She also noted that the 0.5 percent, while a small percentage, “would generate a lot of money that could go towards funding programs to get people back on their feet.”


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