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A few well-written words can convey a wealth of information, particularly when there is no lag time between when they are written and when they are read. The IPS blog gives you an opportunity to hear directly from IPS scholars and staff on ideas large and small and for us to hear back from you.



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Entries tagged "financial transactions tax"

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Europe Takes the Lead in Drive to Tax Speculators

March 10, 2011 ·

Protestors in Germany advocating for the Robin Hood TaxHigh-speed rail, universal health care, quality cheese. Let's face it — the Europeans often leave us Yanks way behind. And now they appear on track again, with solid progress this week towards adopting an innovative proposal to pay for the costs of the global economic crisis.

On March 8, the European Parliament voted 360-299 in favor of introducing financial transactions taxes, tiny levies on trades of stocks, derivatives, currency, and other financial instruments. The proposal could generate an estimated $200 billion per year in revenue for European governments to channel into job creation and other urgent needs. At the same time, it would discourage the type of risky, short-term speculation that got us into this economic mess in the first place.

What's most astounding is that the tax proposal sailed through despite the European Parliament's strong right-wing majority. Yes, there are still places in the world where folks from across the political spectrum can have a rational discussion about fair taxation.

The vote came after more than a year of global advocacy by labor union, anti-poverty, environmental, and other citizens groups. On February 17, activists in 25 countries carried out a Global Day of Action. See this video and this map to get a sense of the breadth of this campaign, from Nepal to Mexico in the global South and from Canada to Japan in the North. German activists staged one of the most elaborate publicity stunts. They dressed up as glamorous Robin Hoods and Maid Marians to crash the Berlinale film festival, arriving in a white limousine and then parading down their own red carpet.

While the message seems to be getting through in Europe, U.S. activists have not had much luck. While not publicly offering much of an explanation, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has reportedly consistently dismissed the idea at G-20 meetings. A WikiLeaks cable from 2009 revealed that then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was deeply frustrated by Geithner's opposition.

This week's vote signaled that many key European leaders are no longer willing to let the Obama administration hold them back. The Parliament's resolution calls on the EU to adopt transactions taxes, regardless of whether the United States or other major economies take similar action.

On the bright side, the United States doesn't appear to be actively trying to block European progress. This is a pretty big deal, considering that President Barack Obama stacked his European embassies with former financial executives (e.g., former Citigroup Vice Chair Louis Susman in London and former Goldman Sachs executive Philip D. Murphy in Berlin) and the Wall Street lobby would no doubt love the administration's help in preventing what for them would be an unnerving precedent.

The campaign for Europe to pioneer financial transactions taxes is, however, far from over. The European Parliament has clout as a directly elected body, but it does not have binding authority over taxation matters. National governments will make the final decision, and while heavyweights Germany and France are strongly in favor, there are some problematic holdouts, namely Italy and the UK. The European Commission, the civil service for the EU, is also not yet convinced.

Nevertheless, according to Owen Tudor, Head of International Relations for the UK's Trade Union Confederation, the European Parliament vote broke a big logjam. One of the main obstacles, Tudor says, "has been the buck-passing of world leaders, who are always looking for someone else to make the first move, or for everyone else to agree before they will. Apart from the clear failure to understand what the word 'leader' actually means, this is almost always only an excuse for inaction, which lets the financial sector off the hook while public services are slashed, the poor get poorer and the world heats up."

More than 20 years after Europeans could zip along on bullet-speed trains, Americans are still stuck on bumpy railways or clogged freeways. The Obama administration recently announced plans to expand U.S. investment in high-speed rail. It's also high time for them to get on board the international campaign to tax the speculators, in part as a way to pay for things like transportation infrastructure. Otherwise, this could well be one more area where we'll be stuck in the slow lane for years to come.

Robin Hood 2.0

February 18, 2011 ·

Forget Russell Crowe. Global campaigners for financial transactions taxes have done way more to bring back Robin Hood's spirit of equity.

Activists in 25 countries, many of them sporting green tights and feathered caps, carried out coordinated actions this week to increase pressure on governments to adopt small levies on trades of stock, currency, and other financial instruments as a way to curb speculation while raising hundreds of billions of dollars in newfound revenue for urgent needs.

Images from these actions have been mapped out to illustrate the global breadth of this campaign, from Nepal to Mexico in the global South and from Canada to Japan in the North.

  • In Germany, a merry band of Robin Hoods and Maid Marians blended in with celebrities at the Berlinale film festival, arriving in a white limousine with their own red carpet.
  • In London, pensioners, public sector workers, students, and unemployed people affected by the UK government's spending cuts joined campaigners dressed as Robin Hood to hand a giant "final demand" notice into a number of banks.
  • In Washington, activists drummed up support for the Investing in our Future Act of 2011, a just-introduced bill by Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) that would tax currency trades to raise money for U.S. deficit reduction and climate and global health programs.

IPS joined a wide range of environmental, labor, faith and other groups in a letter to President Obama endorsing the bill and staged a photo-op in front of the White House. They also visited the French embassy, where charge d'affaires Francois Rivasseau expressed appreciation for the efforts by global civil society to "make noise" in support of financial transactions taxes. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is the current head of the G-20 and has vowed to push for action on this issue within that group of the largest economies.  

The Global Day of Action for Financial Transactions Taxes coincided with the G-20 finance ministers meeting this week in Paris. While G-20 consensus in support of financial transactions taxes would be ideal, much more likely is a "coalition of the willing approach" in which France, Germany, and other countries agree to lead the way.

Once they begin generating significant revenue, the Obama administration may wonder why they're missing out.

Ain't No Stopping A Progressive Agenda: Part 3

November 15, 2010 ·

In the third part of my "Silver Lining" series, trying to find some hope in moving forward after a mid-term election in which Conservatives gained a lot of power, I will reiterate the first points: Its not insignificant that the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) largely stayed intact, and its in our favor that this election was an anti-incumbent election and decidedly not an election that either rejected progressive values nor embraced the pro-corporate, privatization agenda of the republicans.

On a psychological level, big losses in the CPC would have a terribly demoralizing effect on Progressives. Practically speaking, they are still the biggest caucus within the democratic caucus, their majority over the conservative Dems is now significantly larger, and they are still important allies and venues for our ideas and for the campaigns of social movements

Some things can still be done inside the of Washington and a lot can be done outside. One does not preclude or contradict the other. We all are stronger banding together and working all fronts in a complimentary way.

Let's first look inside:

Inside. Encourage Democrats to get as much done in the "lame duck" session as possible. For example:
1. Extend Unemployment Insurance before it expires Nov 30 
2. Extend the job-creating life-saving, state fiscal relief program of the TANF ECF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Emergency Contingency Fund) 
3. Pass the Child Nutrition Act. Restore funding to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program(SNAP, formerly known as food stamps)
4. Push on a moratorium on foreclosures.
5. End the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. Extend tax cuts for low and middle income.
6. Get pieces of Immigration Reform and try to improve and pass comprehensive Immigration Reform

Here are some less likely, but just as necessary goals that we continue to push, this session and next:

1. Pass the Miller Jobs Bill or another good, bold public jobs bill 
2. Pass a Financial Transactions Tax 
3. Cut military and war spending, this is much more likely now than ever before. Some Republicans and Tea Partiers are on our side in this. It was the only good recommendation to come out of yesterday's Chairman's' Mark from the Deficit Commission. 
With Regard to the Administration:
• Press Obama on Executive Orders. There is much he can do without Congress. The Center for Progressive Reform outlines more of what can be done: Protect children form toxic chemicals. Ban non-therapeutic uses of antibiotics in agriculture. Institute more effective provisions for work-place safety. Regulate coal companies. Make EPA work under the Clean Water Act to have states hold agri-business liable for nutrient pollution. For more see the Center's white paper, Obama's Path Forward: Impart a Sense of Urgency to Regulatory Agencies Protecting Health, Safety and the Environment.
• The Progressive Caucus Foundation's Darcy Burner puts it neatly. She highlight's this that the Administration can do..TODAY if it wanted to: 
End Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell, implement net neutrality, stop separating families through deportation, require that all future Federal Reserve appointees agree to prioritize full employment as equally important as price stability, change procurement processes to reward the creation of American jobs, aggressively prosecute war profiteering, begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan as promised, rescind executive orders restricting access to legal abortions, throw the book at companies that break the law to thwart worker organizing, and enforce existing laws and safety regulations for oil and mining companies as a start.

Outside Congress:
• Join movements across issue areas (or "silos" as has become the term of the day). The Domestic Human Needs communities are coming together with Anti-Military spending communities and working to reduce the military budget and fund desperately needed domestic programs
• Use Social Media to get our message and stories out. YouTube is a tremendous resource too. Research tell us that people remember and feel an emotional connection to an issue more if we see it and hear it, rather than to just read about it. 
• Hold town hall and community meetings. One of the last strongholds of liberals is at the local level. Incubate ideas there; create a groundswell of support for progressive national policy through locally elected officials. 
• Join and support Unions
• Create and support local and state-owned banks. the Bank of North Dakota is a great model
• Frequent local business that are a part of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies. Urge businesses to join.
• Document our and our neighbors experiences. Publish them; bring them to local, state and federal lawmakers.

These are just a few ideas. Our challenge is not to despair. The Congressional Progressive Caucus survived. More importantly, We the People, progressive movements, survived and are potentially very energized. We can thrive. If we quickly get good public jobs, more of us can thrive.

This election was decidedly NOT a referendum on progressive ideas such as those illustrated above. Polls show time and again that most Americans desire fairness, do not favor tax cuts for the wealthy, want Wall Street regulated, want food safety, adequate nutrition for our children, strong public schools, decent affordable health care for all, government that can levy our tax dollars to extend income supports to those who are out of work when no jobs are available. We are still a tolerant, liberal society. Progressives are still in a winning position in many ways, especially outside of "the Beltway." And with work, will win in a way that we can keep moving the country forward.

Speculation Tax

July 20, 2010 ·

Rep. Pete Stark introduced legislation today that would "simply impose a small tax--of five thousandths of one percent, or 0.005%" on speculative currency transactions, the California Democrat said in on Huffington Post. "The money raised would be put toward investments in children, global health, and climate change mitigation."

Unless you're a Wall Street bigshot, you don't have to worry about the toll this tax will take on your wallet or portfolio. Stark's "Investing in Our Future Act" (aka H.R. 5783) isn't likely to impact your bottom line.

"For ordinary investors the costs would be negligible, like a tiny insurance fee against the crashes caused by speculators," Institute for Policy Studies fellow Sarah Anderson explained in her recent OtherWords op-ed Who Should Pay for the Crisis?, which called for a measure like this on stock, derivative, and currency trading, as well as other financial instruments. Her op-ed has run in at least nine newspapers so far, including The Providence Journal and the Mount Vernon (OH) News.

Global Activists Coordinate Actions to Tax Speculators

May 20, 2010 ·

From Sydney, Australia to Vancouver, Canada, activists are taking to the streets in cities around the world this week to hold the financial sector accountable for the costs of the global crisis.  

A key demand:  tiny levies on trades of stock, derivatives and currency that could help curb speculation and generate big money for good things, like job creation and fighting poverty.  

K St protest. In Washington, DC, thousands rallied on May 17, calling for such a “financial speculation tax” – as part of a broader financial reform agenda. Organized by the AFL-CIO, SEIU, National People’s Action, and Jobs with Justice, the rally took place on K Street, the office building corridor notorious for its high concentration of corporate and financial industry lobbyists. Under a steady cold rain, protestors in plastic ponchos struggled to juggle umbrellas in one hand and soggy placards in the other.

K Street protestTheir determination reflected the high level of anger over Wall Street’s continued excesses at a time when ordinary working families are still suffering from the crisis.  Our video captures diverse perspectives on why financial speculation taxes are one piece of the solution.

 Since the pending financial reform bill does not include financial speculation taxes, this will be a key piece of “unfinished business” after Congress concludes the current debate on Wall Street regulation.  

In many of countries, coalitions have adopted Robin Hood imagery to emphasize how even miniscule levies on financial transactions could generate massive revenues for to fight poverty and other urgent needs. As you’ll see in the photos and videos below, this has kicked up good business for Robin Hood costume and horse rental businesses.  

United Kingdom  

Robin Hood Tax rally, LondonDressed as Robin Hood, campaigners on May 19 marched across the Westminster Bridge in London to deliver giant mosaics of pictures of more than 3,400 supporters to new members of Parliament, urging them to make a Robin Hood Tax one of their top legislative priorities. New Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is already a supporter. Let’s hope he can persuade his Conservative Party coalition partners. Activists in Scotland, carried out a similar action in Glasgow.


Fired up by recent supportive statements from their government leaders, Berlin activists performed a stunt in front of the Brandenburger Tor on May 19, aimed at a meeting in the city of several G-20 heads of state and finance ministers.   In the video on their campaign site, Campaigners dressed as Robin Hood and merry people attacked a bankers’ carriage with big bags of money. An activist playing Robin Hood boarded the carriage and reloaded small bags of money out of the big ones and placed them into a bucket labelled Fight poverty, Finance development and protect the climate.    


Canada protest tug of war.The Canadian campaign carried out events on May 19 in major cities, including Toronto, Vancouver, Halifax, Saskatoon, Ottawa and St. John’s. In Ottawa, activists staged a tug-of-war in front of the Parliament building that pitted bankers against “the people” (plus one polar bear), with G-20 leaders looking on. The activist team carried signs suggesting how revenues from the tax could contribute to financing different issues, including maternal health initiatives. The Canadian coalition has a big challenge ahead, as conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper has vowed to block progress on bank taxation at the G-20 leaders summit, which he will be hosting in Toronto in June.


On May 18, a new coalition of labor, environmental, and development groups received widespread media coverage when they launched a petition to G-20 leaders, asking for support of financial speculation taxes. The petition is available in multiple languages (including English) and citizens of the world are invited to lend their endorsements. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been one of the most vocal supporters of the global campaign.



The Australian coalition is planning a film/photo stunt with campaigners dressed as Robin Hood, shooting arrows at the campaign target in the Central Business District of Sydney today.   More photos from the DC rally and actions in other countries are being pooled on this flickr site: http://www.flickr.com/groups/1381757@N25/

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