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After weeks of waving signs and chanting with no clear policy objective, Occupy Wall Street protesters finally have an issue to rally around: a tax on Wall Street.
Known in Occupy movement parlance as the "Robin Hood tax," taxes on trades of stocks, bonds and derivatives are getting a fresh look on Capitol Hill and may draw thousands of protesters to Washington, D.C., next week. Helping lead the charge are an unlikely breed of tax activist: registered nurses.
At least 1,000 nurses are expected to rally in front of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's office on Nov. 3, on the eve of the G-20 finance ministers meeting in Cannes, France, where a European transaction tax will be on the agenda. That group is led by the AFL-CIO affiliate National Nurses United, which already organized two rallies in Manhattan and D.C. in June around the slogan: "Tax Wall Street and heal Main Street." The nurses are also helping organize protests in Europe.
Now the nurses are being joined by the Occupy Together movement, whose organizers are planning Robin Hood tax rallies internationally to promote the tax, including one in McPherson Square on Saturday by Occupy DC. Buoyed in part by anti-Wall Street sentiment, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) will introduce transaction tax legislation as early as next week.
"There [are] people in the streets angry about economic inequality, and angry about what Wall Street has gotten away with," said Lisa Donner, executive director of Americans for Financial Reform, which supports both bills. "The European community is moving ahead with a serious proposal."
There's also pressure on the super committee to find revenue sources, Donner noted. Dozens of labor, environmental and progressive groups signed on to an Oct. 21 Americans for Financial Reform letter to the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction, urging the panel to look for federal savings in a financial transactions tax.
A "minuscule" tax of as little as 1 cent per $100 of financial transactions globally would raise more than $200 billion a year according to the International Monetary Fund, the letter stated. Transaction tax proponents argue that it would not only generate much-needed federal revenue, but slow the kind of high-speed stock and derivatives trading that sent markets into a "flash crash" last year.