Robin Hood comes to Congress
by Karen Orenstein, Deputy Director of Economic Policy
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This morning, I joined Representatives Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) as well as the leaders of Health Gap, National Nurses United, National Peoples Action, Demos and Vocal to announce the introduction of the Inclusive Prosperity Act of 2013 (H.R. 1579).
The concept behind the Inclusive Prosperity Act is simple. When the banks and Wall Street were on the verge of collapse, taxpayers were forced to step in with trillions of dollars to bail them out. As Wall Street executives sit on fat cat bonuses, it’s past time for the big banks to repay the American people, starting with a financial transaction tax. Or, as we call it, the Robin Hood Tax.
When enacted, the Inclusive Prosperity Act would implement a fraction of a percent tax on financial transactions. While minuscule, the cumulative impact of the tax would raise some $350 billion in one year, and would help keep communities healthy and whole, both at home and around the world.
From an environmental and justice perspective, the Inclusive Prosperity Act recognizes the enormous human and economic toll that climate change will take in the United States and in developing countries. It opens the door for a portion of this extremely promising, untapped revenue source to be used to help the world’s poor confront the climate crisis, a crisis which they did not cause.
This isn’t a new idea. France has dedicated a portion of the revenue from its financial transaction tax to help poor countries combat climate change. And 11 European Union countries are in the process of implementing a regional financial transaction tax. The United States, the world’s biggest economy and the country most responsible for causing climate change and the financial crisis, should follow suit.
The Inclusive Prosperity Act calls into question Washington’s political will to do something that challenges Wall Street and demonstrates that there is not actually a scarcity of public funds for global public goods.
Congressman Ellison and the co-sponsors of the Inclusive Prosperity Act have the political will to challenge Wall Street. Friends of the Earth is proud to endorse and support their efforts. President Obama should do the same. It is well past time for Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to not only stop trying to tamp down on other countries’ effort to establish a Robin Hood Tax, but to actually come out publicly in favor of it.
PS- If you are in Washington, DC this weekend, please join Friends of the Earth and our colleagues at the Robin Hood Tax Rally outside of the World Bank on Saturday, April 20 at 12:00.