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OWS Protesters May Demand "Robin Hood" Tax

The magazine that sparked the protests calls for a 1-percent levy on financial transactions.

Will Oremus

Runs With Scissors

The magazine that sparked the Occupy Wall Street movement is now trying to rally it around a single, clear demand: a “Robin Hood tax.”

Adbusters, a Vancouver-based magazine with an anti-consumerist bent, is calling on its supporters to participate in a global march on Oct. 29. It has proposed a Twitter hashtag, #ROBINHOOD, for the occasion. And it has laid out a policy proposal: a 1 percent tax on all financial transactions and currency trades. The magazine’s open letter reads, in part:

On October 29, on the eve of the G20 Leaders Summit in France, let's the people of the world rise up and demand that our G20 leaders immediately impose a 1% #ROBINHOOD tax on all financial transactions and currency trades. Let's send them a clear message: We want you to slow down some of that $1.3-trillion easy money that's sloshing around the global casino each day – enough cash to fund every social program and environmental initiative in the world.

The form and content of the message echo that of the magazine’s original July 13 call for an #OccupyWallStreet demonstration. That open letter, which like this one was sent via email to an estimated 90,000 readers, asked, “Are you ready for a Tahrir moment?” It went on: “On September 17, we want to see 20,000 people flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for a few months. Once there, we shall incessantly repeat one simple demand in a plurality of voices.”

The one simple demand, at the time, was “Democracy not Corporatocracy.” But that has proven too vague for many critics, who have repeatedly wondered just what the Occupy activists really want.

The 1 percent transactions tax idea is not new, notes the New York Times’ blog The Lede, which links to a post about the proposal that was published on the Times’ Economix blog last year. In that post, economics professor Nancy Folbre predicted that such a policy would cut down on Wall Street speculation and raise $175 billion in revenue a year. The blog post is worth a read for its substantive analysis of the likely benefits and downsides.

On Tuesday, the Slatest examined the “Occupy” movement’s mainstream appeal and whether its aims would be helped or hurt by defining clear demands.

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