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Entries tagged "wall street"Page Previous 1 • 2 • 3 • 4
June 7, 2011 · By Sarah Anderson
A swarm of around a thousand nurses in scarlet scrubs descended on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in downtown Washington today, calling for a new national agenda funded by taxing Wall Street.
At the door to the Chamber’s headquarters, they were greeted by tuxedoed gentlemen with sashes bearing the names of Wall Street firms. They held out buckets for cash donations (I didn’t see much actual money going in).
The rally, organized by National Nurses United, was part of a series of activities to promote what they are calling a “Main Street Contract” to increase spending on jobs, healthcare, education, and other urgent needs.
At a press conference on June 6, NNU Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro explained that they are calling on Congress to enact a tax on financial transactions as a way to pay for the contract.
Such taxes are designed to generate massive revenue while also discouraging the kind of short-term purely speculative financial activity that serves no social purpose. The way they work is by placing a very small fee (0.25% or less) on each trade of stocks, derivatives, foreign exchange, and other financial instruments.
DeMoro said that NNU members along with other unions and allies plan to demonstrate June 22 on Wall Street as part of an international day of action on financial transactions taxes.
That date was selected because it falls on the eve of a European Council meeting in Brussels. Progress on this issue has been moving fast in Europe and there are high hopes that European countries, at least those in the eurozone, will reach agreement soon to coordinate the adoption of financial transactions taxes. Leaders of Germany and France have been the biggest champions, and there are reports this week that their two governments are coming closer to consensus on the technicalities (instruments covered and at what rates).
This could put healthy pressure on U.S. policymakers to open their minds to an idea that progressives have been pushing for decades.
March 10, 2011 · By Sarah Anderson
High-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.
February 3, 2011 · By Robert Alvarez
The dramatic rise in food prices is fueling a great deal of discontent in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere. It's a deep undercurrent propelling many of the poor, who face prospects of starvation to resort to the streets and to violence. According to the United Nation's Food Agency (Food and Agriculture Organization -- FAO) world food prices are up for the 7th month in a row and are likely to surpass the record high reached in December 2010.
No end is in sight for this destabilizing battle with food price inflation in places like Egypt, where more than half of an average income goes for food. According to the State Department, more than 60 food riots occurred worldwide over the past two years.
In March 2008, a dramatic spike in food prices led thousands of people on the brink of starvation in Egypt to violently riot -- sending a seismic shock wave through the Mubarak regime. After the Egyptian military was able to distribute enough wheat to dispel the rioting, efforts to stockpile wheat by the Mubarak government have failed, as food prices continue to hover at record highs.
The media is reporting many reasons for this problem ranging from soaring demand, cuts in food subsidies, droughts, and government mandates to use more grain-based biofuel. But, another significant factor is at play: unfettered speculation by investment banks. As noted in USA Today, in 2008, “the bulls may not be running on Wall Street, but they're charging in the commodities pits.”
At issue are the still deregulated commodity markets ushered in by the Clinton administration and the U.S. Congress with the passage of the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000. Before this law, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) served as a cop on the beat, enforcing rules that prevent the distortion or manipulation of prices beyond normal supply and demand. But Wall Street banks and companies such as ENRON and British Petroleum were determined to make a lot more money from speculation by exempting energy-derivative contracts and related swaps from government oversight.
For this reason, the 2000 law allows entities that have no stake in whether adequate amounts of food and fuel are available for ordinary people and commodity-dependent businesses to make huge sums of money by gambling with other people’s money.
Soon after passage of the 2000 law, “dark” unregulated futures trading markets emerged, most notably the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) in London -- created by Wall Street and European investment banks and several oil companies. A key practice involves “over the counter index trading" in which hundreds of billions of dollars of pension, sovereign wealth, and other institutional funds are used to flood “dark” commodity markets to buy and hold futures contracts without an expiration date or oversight. When it's time to make money on a losing bet, these funds are withdrawn, causing commodity price crashes and economic instability.
These transactions don't involve customary “bona fide” commodity traders, such as an airline company hedging on the price of jet fuel by purchasing futures contracts. As prominent hedge fund manager Michael McMasters noted before a U.S. Senate panel in 2008, this amounts to “a form of electronic hoarding and greatly increases the inflationary effect of the market. It literally means starvation for millions of the world's poor.”
Some world leaders are willing to speak out against the pernicious role of “dark” commodity markets. Recently, French President Sarkozy warned of further unrest and even war at the Davos forum, unless commodity speculation is reined in -- something that Wall Street and Republican lawmakers are bitterly fighting. The Dodd/Frank Financial Reform Law places some restrictions on this practice by the CFTC. In particular, the CFTC is beginning the process of weeding out “non bona fide” investment bank speculators.
True to form, House Republicans are demanding that the CFTC slam on the brakes. They're planning hearings and legislation to hamstring these efforts.
The spontaneous mass uprising of ordinary people in Egypt and the Middle East against their authoritarian regimes has many root causes. One that deserves much greater attention is unfettered speculation by powerful private financial institutions that don't care about world-wide starvation and its impacts. It's distorting global food supplies.
June 21, 2010 · By Jennifer Doak
"Conservatives have declared a new class war, but it's not on bankers earning seven-figure bonuses," even though "[a] recent study [finds] that when such factors as education and work experience are accounted for, state and local employees earn 11 to 12 percent less than comparable private sector workers…By attacking public workers, they can demonize "big labor" and "big government" at the same time, while deflecting attention from the more logical target of Middle America's rage: the irresponsible Wall Street traders, whose risky, high-profit business practices brought down the economy, and the lax regulators who let them get away with it." (The Nation) If GOP senators are saying this, maybe they should volunteer to have their salaries cut first?
"It's as if the Earth has been smoking two packs a day," say the authors of a new Australian report on the decline of our oceans. (Scientific American)
The Guardian interviews Story of Stuff's Annie Leonard (with whom we collaborated on the Story of Cap and Trade) on her new book:"If you're going to vote with your dollar that's fine," Leonard says. "But you need to remember that Exxon has a lot more dollars than you. We need to vote with our votes; re-engage with the political process and change the balance of power so that those who are looking out for the wellbeing of the planet dominate, instead of those who are just looking out for the bottom line."
But if you think the situation in the Gulf is bad, take a look at the Niger Delta. By IPS board member Ethelbert Miller, in the FPIF Focal Points blog. You can also go to Niger Delta Rising for more background.
May 17, 2010 · By Jennifer Doak
A steady rain fell on the large crowd of protesters who gathered at McPherson Square, on K Street. I juggled my umbrella, a camera, and a soggy sign that said "MAKE FINANCE PAY," wishing another pair of arms would magically appear.
Despite the chilly, wet weather, thousands of people – representing groups like the AFL-CIO, SEIU, AFT (link to an article about their Pink Hearts, not Pink Slips campaign), Jobs with Justice, National People's Action, the Other 98%, and many others I didn't catch – chanted, banged drums, and held up banners protesting the K Street lobbyists who've hijacked our democracy.
"K Street is Washington's counterpart to Wall Street," writes our director, John Cavanagh, "and powerful men on both streets have been working hard, in tandem, to preserve our casino economy, our plunder economy, and our military economy."
We marched around a few blocks of K Street closed off for the protest. At the end of the closed-off area there was a giant evil-looking banker, holding a marionette of the Senate building. Boo hiss!
All in all, it was great to see so many people brave the weather to civilly demand their rights. Brian, our friendly neighborhood tech guy, filmed the protest and interviewed a few people about why they were here today. I saw a few news camera crews there too, so hopefully we'll get some key footage up soon. You can see the rest of our photos on Flickr.
Were you at the protest? Tell us about it.