Outside the district office of Rep. Charles Rangel, Robin Hood Tax Campaigners from National Nurses United (NNU) and Health GAP found an engaged audience today. These residents of New York’s Harlem are wondering when the recovery will arrive.
Their neighborhoods are a mix of shuttered brownstones and half-empty condos, a sign of the realty speculation that somehow, someway never brought decent, affordable housing to Manhattan’s northern-most community.
It was one of four national Robin Hood actions today repeating the call for a different approach to addressing the economy, with a renewed call for a Robin Hood tax on Wall Street speculation to increase revenues, not more punishing austerity cuts, especially to the vital programs Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
The spirit of speculation lives on in the trading floors and conference rooms of Wall Street. Financialization, as opposed to a productive economy, is the model being sold, even after the collapse of financial markets in 2008.
The bailout of these “too-big-to-fail” financial institutions ran up a bill in the trillions, much of it paid from federal tax coffers. That money needs to be returned to places like Harlem—for jobs, rebuilding, decent retirement, good schools and clean environment.
That is what the Robin Hood Tax is all about. It is embodied in Rep. Keith Ellison’s Inclusive Prosperity Act, H.R. 6411, and the RHT Campaign made visits to Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco, in addition to Rangel’s offices, to get pledges of support.
“The Robin Hood Tax would provide us with the resources we need to end the AIDS pandemic and fight back against climate change,” said Michael Tikili of Health GAP. “With disasters like Hurricane Sandy looming, we can no longer look to spending cuts to fix our financial crisis. We need a Robin Hood Tax to give us the revenue we need to end AIDS and fight climate change now.”Like their last visit to Mr. Rangel, RNs and Health GAP members sought an audience inside the congressman’s office. No go. “So we bargained with them to send someone down,” explained Jonathan Weitz of NNU.
“The RNs immediately fired back that the law would have a minimal or no effect, would raise up to $350 billion a year for healthcare, education and jobs.” The Ellison bill in fact for the most part taxes the brokers who make the trade and exempts households with incomes below $75,000 per year.
Across the coast, in Los Angeles, some four dozen nurses and activists rallied outside the district office of Rep. Xavier Becerra.
Some were invited in to meet with Liz Saldivar, district director, who continued to hedge on the bill and said he’d like to see more sponsors of the bill. It already has 18 co-sponsors, a good number for a bill that was only introduced a few weeks ago.
Dozens more gathered outside the San Francisco district office of Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who earlier today announced plans to run for another term as House Minority Leader.
Pelosi’s district director Dan Bernal dismissively told the RNs they had a “90 seconds” to talk to him.
The Robin Hood Tax Campaign was also saying at the actions that cuts to essential services – Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and the food stamp program – must not be carried out.
“This country has vast wealth but poor priorities,” said Jean Ross, RN and co-president of National Nurses United, one the founding organizations of the Robin Hood Tax Campaign. “Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the Food Stamp program are the economic bedrock of vast numbers of American families. To reduce these in any way is to do serious harm and lead to more poverty. We, as nurses, shudder at the thought of more harm to Americans. Don’t do it.”
In a meeting with leaders of labor and liberal advocacy groups Tuesday, the President pledged he was not going to “budge” on opposing extension of the Bush tax cuts for the rich, and "seemed to agree that Social Security" should not be part of any grand bargain because it "didn't add to the deficit."
Yet, the President’s press secretary afterwards told reporters that the President “has put forward a very specific plan that will be what he brings to the table when he sits down with Congressional leaders.” That $4 trillion, 10-year plan includes the commitment to $1.1 trillion in spending cuts that agreed to during the debt ceiling negotiations last year as well as additional spending cuts that include $340 billion in savings from Medicare and Medicaid, the New York Times reported.
Further, in his press conference today, President Obama twice cited his support for “entitlement changes” as part of a fiscal cliff deal.
Robin Hood and company have a different message:
Austerity has no place in America. It will have the same affects these draconian cuts have had in Europe: demise, poverty and no growth.
Don’t the Europeans know it. Millions hit the streets today to protest spending cuts they say have made the economic crisis worse. General strikes were held in Portugal, Spain, Greece and Italty, with major strikes in France and Belgium and labor actions in cities across the continent. Flights were cancelled, car factories and ports were at a standstill and trains barely ran in Spain and Portugal where unions held their first ever coordinated general strike.