National Nurses United (NNU), the nation’s largest union and professional association of nurses, representing 170,000 RNs, is out in the streets, in congressional offices and just last week in Liberty Park with the Occupy Wall Street protesters pushing a good idea that has been around for decades and whose time has come: a financial-transactions tax . This is a small levy on trades of stocks, derivatives and currencies meant to curb short-term speculation while raising massive revenue for urgent needs.
Since June, thousands of nurses have protested on Wall Street, at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, and the Federal Reserve Bank in San Francisco, as well as participated in actions ranging from working in soup kitchens to staging sit-ins at 60 district congressional offices in 21 states to lead the fight for this common-sense measure.
“In my practice as a staff nurse in a downtown Boston teaching hospital, I am seeing the effects of this crisis every day,” said Massachusetts RN Ann Marie McDonagh. “A nurses’ union must do so much more than just negotiate fair pay and decent working conditions. It must use its power to promote the overall well being of its members and the public they care for.”
Last month, at NNU’s convention in San Francisco, filmmaker Michael Moore praised the union for its creativity and initiative. “It’s so necessary,” said Moore. “Your movement on [this tax] is genius; it has to happen.”
Moore is onto something. There is indeed a sense that this idea needs to become a reality. This is no marginal idea: The “Tobin Tax” to discourage short-term currency speculation was originally suggested by Nobel laureate economist James Tobin in 1972. Just last week, Bill Gates endorsed a small tax on financial transactions as a way to raise substantial resources for development spending.
In Europe, centrists and even some conservatives now embrace such an idea. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy have both signaled their support, and the new head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, was a strong proponent of a financial-transaction tax as finance minister of France. Last week, the European Commission released proposed legislation for an EU-wide financial-transactions tax.