Dressed as modern-day members of the band of Merry Men, union nurses fanned out across downtown Minneapolis today, doling out bottles of water and a prescription for healing what ails the American economy.
The nurses’ solution? A “Robin Hood Tax” on Wall Street transactions.
The plan would place a small sales tax – less than half of 1 percent – on trades of stocks, bonds, derivatives and currencies. Revenues would help reverse declining public support for schools, health care and infrastructure repair and development – and put an estimated 9 million Americans back to work.
Linda Hamilton, president of the 20,000-member Minnesota Nurses Association, called it a “tax for the people, not on the people.”
Hamilton’s union organized the Robin Hood-themed demonstration – many nurses wore pointed, green hats and masks – to coincide with similar actions in 15 other U.S. cities.
The MNA and its parent union, National Nurses United, began calling on lawmakers to “take from Wall Street and give to Main Street” last year. Since then they have been joined by dozens of other public-health, civic and advocacy organizations, as well as prominent economists and celebrities.
The Robin Hood Tax is aimed at high-volume trading, which today makes up a majority of all trades. Experts say the tax will help place limits on the reckless short-term speculation that threatens financial stability.
“Wall Street’s reckless speculation and risky deals caused our economy’s most devastating crash since the Great Depression, forcing millions of Americans to lose their jobs, their homes and their pensions,” said Jean Ross, a MNA member and co-president of NNU. “Three years later, Americans on Main Street still struggle to recover from a crisis we didn’t create. This is the way to start to turn it around.”
In Minneapolis, nurses rallied outside the offices of J.P. Morgan Chase, the financial giant that recently announced it had lost more than $2 billion by gambling on credit derivatives.
It is that type of risky behavior, MNA member Bob Michaelson said, that a “Robin Hood Tax” would help curtail. A former accountant, Michaelson switched careers 10 years ago. He entered the medical field and has worked as a registered nurse at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis for the last year.
When he saw his union’s plan for combating Wall Street greed, Michaelson, who calls himself a “recovering corporate tax accountant,” knew he had to get involved.
“The ‘Robin Hood Tax’ makes sense because of the volume of transactions that we have on Wall Street that do not generate income for the common good,” Michaelson said. “It’s the Wall Street banking firms that profit from all these trades.”
Nurses don’t need a background in economics to know the U.S. economy isn’t working for middle class families, Michaelson added. After all, Robin Hood didn’t have his MBA.
“Nurses are concerned about the daily lives of everybody,” Michaelson said. “People look to us for good judgment on things.”
MNA President Hamilton put it this way: “People are suffering, and nurses take care of people. Nurses are coming up with solutions.”
For more information on the “Robin Hood Tax,” go to www.robinhoodtax.org.