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Common Dreams

Growing Support for Global Robin Hood Tax; Obama, UK Obstacles

Common Dreams staff

National Nurses United and the California Nurses Association march for a Financial Transaction Tax/Robin Hood Tax. Los Angeles, CA. November 3, 2011

Growing support across Europe this week for a new “Robin Hood tax” -- a Financial Transaction Tax-- has given hope to those who have been pushing for US President Obama to support the new tax. But the UK government and President Obama will need to get on board for a new global financial transaction tax to succeed.

Boosted by the Occupy Wall Street movement, two Democrats in the House and Senate -- Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) -- introduced a Financial Transaction Tax bill in Congress in November that would easily raise $350 billion over 10 years. DeFazio has said the big threat that the Wall Street apologists have always used to oppose a Financial Transaction Tax is, 'My God, all of our firms will move to Europe.' "Occupy Wall Street has just reminded a large majority of the American people that our economy was destroyed by gambling on Wall Street. And that the people who destroyed our economy have been amply rewarded and not prosecuted," said DeFazio.

Last week, conservative President of France Nicolas Sarkozy announced he'd take the lead in promoting a Financial Transaction Tax. Now, Italian and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel have come on board.

Wall Street apologists have always used to oppose a Financial Transaction Tax is, 'My God, all of our firms will move to Europe.'Britain Prime Minister David Cameron said last week that Britain will veto any attempt to introduce an EU-wide financial transaction tax and has said the UK could only agree to the tax if it were accepted globally.

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Jeff Cohen, writing for Common Dreams earlier this week:

With U.S. media obsessing on the fight here at home among conservatives vying to become president, most of them missed some big news about France, which already has a conservative president.  This week, French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced that he would take the lead – even go it alone within Europe, if need be – in introducing and pushing a Financial Transaction Tax in his country.

That’s right – the conservative president of France wants to tax the financial traders and speculators.

Referring to the tax as a “moral issue” and blaming deregulation and speculation for the global economic meltdown, Sarkozy has said that traders must “repay for the damage they have caused.”

What does it tell us about U.S. politics that the conservative president of France – on this issue and others – is way to the left of President Obama?  The U.S. president has not publicly promoted a Wall Street transaction tax (even though US financial institutions, not the French, were largely responsible for the global financial crisis).[...]

A Wall Street transaction tax is backed by National Nurses United and other unions.  It’s popular with the U.S. public, and would be even more popular if Obama were to campaign for it in 2012. has gained 50,000 signatures in support of the tax.

You can add your name here to those pushing Obama to (re)embrace the Wall Street tax.

Dow Jones Newswire reports today:

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel Saturday found backing from her party to introduce a financial transaction tax within the euro zone if it is impossible to launch it in the European Union as a whole.

The plan was agreed to at a meeting of her conservative Christian Democratic Union here in northern Germany.

"We will aim for a quick introduction of a financial transaction tax," said the so-called Kiel Declaration, which outlines the party's road map for the rest of the year. "The tax should be shaped in a way that the interest of Germany's financial centers will be maintained."

The introduction in the euro zone alone should be a first step to be followed by efforts to get the EU as a whole and also the U.S. later on board, the declaration said.

The Inter Press Service reports today:

While France’s financial sector remains resistant to the idea, non-governmental organizations point out that the financial sector is continuing to make profits despite the global economic crisis. And some of the profit-making is causing additional hardships to the world’s poor, they say.

A report published by Friends of the Earth Europe states that "European banks, pension funds and insurance companies are increasing global hunger and poverty by speculating on food prices and financing land grabs in poorer countries."

The report examines the activities of 29 European banks, pension funds and insurance companies, including Deutsche Bank, Barclays, RBS, Allianz, BNP Paribas, AXA, HSBC, Generali, Allianz, Unicredit and Credit Agricole. It suggests that there is "significant involvement of these financial institutions in food speculation, and the direct or indirect financing of land grabbing."

Friends of the Earth Europe and other organizations are calling for strict regulation to rein in these activities, and they believe that a tax on financial transactions would also help to decrease speculative trading in commodities.

"Food speculation, with billions of euros flooding in and out of financial products based on foodstuffs, causes price volatility," the group said in a statement this week. "These rapid and unpredictable price swings hit the most vulnerable hardest, threatening their right to food, and making it more difficult for farmers to maintain an income – creating instability, hunger and poverty."

On Thursday, the Associated Press reported:

BERLIN — Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti on Wednesday threw his support behind a new tax on financial transactions, backing a push by Germany and France, but said he would prefer to have it apply across the whole European Union.[...]

The European Commission has estimated that the tax could raise as much as 57 billion euros ($77 billion) a year in Europe.

The tax would be a tiny percentage of the value of a trade — the French government proposed 0.1 percent on bonds and shares and 0.01 percent on more complex derivatives. Although some countries already have a minimal duty on share trading, the new proposal would not only increase the scope and size of the tax but also siphon off some revenue to Brussels.

There is no final decision yet, however, on what financial instruments would be taxed and whether currency trades — which make up a large slice of worldwide transactions — would be targeted as well.

Mr. Monti studied at Yale with the economist James Tobin, who first proposed the levy.

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