US nurses push Robin Hood tax

“These people were rewarded not with prison sentences, but with bailouts and bonuses.” – Jill Furillo

Taxing financial speculators to help pay for economic recovery and quality public services is a growing demand in countries ravaged by the long recession.

Americans pay a 6% sales tax when they shop and a 14.5% tax when they stay at a hotel. But traders on Wall Street pay no tax when they speculate.

The USA’s biggest nursing union says that’s unfair. National Nurses United (NNU) wants a “Robin Hood” financial transaction tax on Wall Street, to pay for the economic crisis caused by financial speculation.

The NNU’s bargaining director, Jill Furillo RN, told the NSWNA’s annual conference that getting big corporations and the rich to pay a fair share of tax was the key demand of a popular campaign for “a Main Street contract for the American people”.

The Main Street program includes “good jobs at living wages”, guaranteed health care “like most other countries have” and quality public education, she said.

“To help fund this far reaching program, we recognised there needed to be a major new source of revenue, one that also addressed the source of the economic crisis.

“Thus the proposal for a financial transaction tax or sales tax on the buying and selling of stocks, bonds, derivatives and currency.

“It will be paid by the same banks and financial institutions that broke the economy by gambling with people’s homes and pensions, and stole hundreds of billions of dollars from Main Street communities and families.

“These people were rewarded not with prison sentences, but with bailouts and bonuses.”

Jill said nurses across the USA saw the harmful effects of the economic crisis in their hospitals and clinics every day.

“Health conditions nurses identified as linked to the prolonged economic decline include stress-induced ailments in younger patients, increased obesity linked to poverty, anxiety disorders in young people and deaths resulting from delays in treatment tied to poverty or health insurance barriers.”

To get patients the care they needed, National Nurses United recognised it had to “take the fight beyond the bedside to the policy arena and the streets.”

Jill said nurses saw the effects of the long recession, which began in 2008, in their own families

“Nurses who fought for decades to finally win pay equity and improvements, suddenly were becoming the sole source of support for their families due to job loss and lack of housing and health care.”

The NSWNA council supports the push by international nursing and public services organisations for the introduction of a FTT and the Association has campaigned strongly for its introduction in Australia.


Robin Hood Tax

More than 15 countries now have a Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) – sometimes called a Robin Hood Tax or Tobin Tax.

The FTT would apply to buying and selling of stocks, bonds, derivatives, futures, credit default swaps etc.

It targets major speculators, banks and investment firms, not ordinary investors.

The charity Oxfam Australia says the tax can be as low as an average 0.05%. But when levied on the billions of dollars moving throughout the global finance system on a daily basis, through transactions such as foreign exchange, derivatives and share deals, it could raise hundreds of billions of dollars annually.

“That could pay for vital investment in much needed and underfunded public services like health and education, as well as measures to combat global poverty and climate change,” Oxfam Australia says.