How to Stretch a Penny (Ask Robin Hood)
by Karen Orenstein, Deputy Director of Economic Policy
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Though a number of wealthy countries attending a State Department-convened climate finance ministerial meeting on mobilizing private money have been trying to escape their obligation to use public funds to help the world’s poor confront the climate crisis (which, incidentally, the poor did not cause), Robin Hood found them today and demanded to be heard. He and his many supporters stood outside the hotel where the elite group had gathered in Washington, D.C. and loudly called for the implementation of a Robin Hood Tax (a.k.a. financial transaction tax), an extremely promising, untapped source of revenue that would raise hundreds of billions of dollars to create jobs; provide education, housing and global healthcare; and fight climate change.
Passers-by witnessed an epic tug-of-war between people and the planet on one side, and big banks on the other. It was the walruses, polar bears, Robin Hood and ordinary folks versus the fat cat bankers. They were struggling over a tiny tax on big banks, symbolized by a giant penny.
|Spokesperson for Wall Street tycoons|
According to a spokesperson representing Wall Street and City of London tycoons standing on the right side of the rope, “If I lose the money, I will not be able to fly in my private jet. Oh wait, that’s not true. I will still have enough money to fly in my jet. I might make way less money! Oh wait, actually there’s no data to back that up. I will not be able to afford healthcare! Oh wait, actually if there was a Robin Hood Tax, healthcare would be affordable for everyone. Well, dammit, I just don’t want to give up any of my pennies!”
At which point, Robin Hood retorted, “But, Banker, the Robin Hood Tax is waaaayyyy less than a penny!”
Mr. Hood was correct. At no more than half-a-penny, the Robin Hood Tax is a micro-tax on Wall Street trading that would curb harmful speculation and raise hundreds of billions of dollars of new revenue to pay for urgently-needed public goods and services, like helping the poor cope with the threats to public health and food shortages caused by our changing climate. It would simply levy a teeny tiny fee on financial transactions—most of which are traded not by people, but by computers in a matter of micro-seconds—involving stocks, bonds, currency exchanges and derivatives. As Robin Hood likes to say, “It’s small change for the banks but big change for the people.”
Throughout the tug-of-war, Robin Hood’s supporters – even those of the animal kingdom – could be heard chanting:
No more budget cuts on our backs;
Fight climate change with a Robin Hood Tax!
Public money’s good,
Says Robin Hood;
Robin Hood Tax now!
|Representative from Norwegian ministry addresses those gathered|
As they dispersed, Robin Hood’s supporters expressed cautious optimism that their message was well-received. After all , they had interacted with ministry representatives from the U.S., U.K., Poland, Japan, Canada and Norway. Norway’s representative even joined in the fun to show his support for Robin Hood.
Rather than focusing on how to guarantee high returns for Wall Street and the City of London, the U.S. and other countries should finally start taxing them to help pay for global public goods and services, like meeting the adaptation and mitigation needs of ordinary people in developing countries, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.