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Facing South

Nurses Rally to Heal America with Wall Street Tax

Nurses will gather across the U.S. today (Thursday, Sept. 1), to urge Congress to tax financial transactions and use the revenue to fund social programs desperately needed amid the ongoing economic crisis.

The nationwide event organized by the National Nurses United will include visits to some 60 congressional offices. Earlier this month, NNU sent a letter to all 535 members of the House and Senate asking them to support a tax on trading of stocks, bonds, derivatives, currencies, credit default swaps and futures -- the sort of financial speculation behind the 2008 economic meltdown and resulting recession.

"America's nurses see every day the broad declines in health and living standards that are a direct result of patients and families struggling with lack of jobs, un-payable medical bills, hunger and homelessness," said NNU Co-president Karen Higgins, a registered nurse. "We know where to find the resources to bring them hope and real solutions."

A number of the Sept. 1 events will take place across the South, including Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Texas and West Virginia. There's also a rally planned outside House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's office in Richmond, Va.

As economics professor Nancy Folbre pointed out last week in the New York Times, speculative purchases of stocks, bonds and other financial instruments are currently untaxed in the U.S. except for a small fee of less than a half-cent on stock trades used to fund the Securities and Exchange Commission:

In Britain, by contrast, a 0.5 percent tax on stock transactions raises about $40 billion a year. President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany recently announced plans to introduce a similar tax in the 27 nations of the European Community.


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In the U.S., a financial transactions tax of 0.5 percent would raise an estimated $175 billion in revenue a year -- even if it cut the total number of transactions in half. Proponents also point out that by discouraging short-term trades and speculation such a tax could reduce price volatility and encourage long-term investment.

Not surprisingly, Wall Street hates the idea because it would reduce trading profits, while traders worry that it would eliminate some of their jobs.

Sue Sturgis

Sue Sturgis

Sue Sturgis is the Director and regular contributor to the Institute for Southern Study's online magazine, Facing South, with a focus on energy and environmental issues. Sue is the author or co-author of five Institute reports, including Faith in the Gulf (Aug/Sept 2008), Hurricane Katrina and the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (January 2008) and Blueprint for Gulf Renewal (Aug/Sept 2007). Sue holds a Masters in Journalism from New York University.

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