Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Those Radical Nurses: Make Wall Street Pay!

Wall Street Speculators, We're Coming For You (Image by Barbara Bessa)
Nurses from across the U.S. are planning to call on Congress members on September 1 to support a tax on Wall Street financial speculation. The OB Rag and the Left Labor Reporter say that nurses will be joined by other groups who are planning soup kitchens to help feed the hungry and homeless, community speak outs and street theater to draw attention to the growing wealth gap. Events are planned in large cities like Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and Orlando, as well as smaller cities like Corpus Christi, Texas, Marquette, Mich., Bakersfield, Calif., Dayton, Ohio, and Worcester, Mass.
Nurses Marching (On Wall Street???) Image by timefornurses
 Sponsored by National Nurses United (NNU), the RNs will be calling on Congress members to support a Wall Street transaction tax and make it “pay for the devastation it has caused on Main Street.”

In a recent piece in the New York Times, Nancy Folbre, an economist at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, wrote that a 0.5% tax on trades of stocks, bonds, derivatives, currencies, credit default swaps, future options, and other exotic speculative transactions could bring in $175 billion annually. Contrary to the crocodile tears of Wall Street speculators, economist Mark Thoma says that only short-term trades will be affected by the tax, and these are based on speculation that has little social value.

Mark Thoma is being too generous. There is no social value whatsoever, only profits for a few rich people. And the nurses are being too generous, as well, asking for only a pittance from people who can afford far more. What about marginal tax rates, corporate tax rates, capital gains taxes and inheritance taxes, each of which is at record or near record lows? If the rich had to pay taxes at the rates they were paying under their hero Reagan, which were higher than today, the government might bring in hundreds of billions or even a trillion each year. And if they paid the 80% marginal tax rate of the post-WWII years, it would easily over a trillion annually.

According to the Left Labor Reporter, the NNU’s September 1 action is part of the union’s ongoing campaign to “Heal America; Make Wall Street Pay,” whose goal is to get Americans back to work, provide health care to all, and help the working class regain some of the ground we’ve lost over the last 30 years.

Of course Wall Street should pay through the teeth, but this will not heal America. In fact, regaining the ground we’ve lost over the last 30 years, will only take us back to a time when the wealth gap was huge rather than monstrous. The world will still be dominated by a tiny minority of people who will still possess the vast majority of the wealth and for whom the rest of us will still be forced to toil. There will still be poverty, as there was 30 years ago. There will continue to be people who lack health care, decent housing, adequate food, free time, or control over their own wellbeing and destiny.

Taxing the rich is a bandage and perhaps a decent first step. But if we really want to heal America, then we need to be fighting for an end to the wage system and bosses and for a system in which everyone has access to the good things in life.

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