Gates Backs the Wall Street Tax at the G20 Summit

The world’s second-richest man and a group of American nurses on the frontlines of the Occupy Wall Street protests came to the G20 summit in Cannes, France this week to advocate for the same thing.

Nurses check up on Bill Nighy after his endorsement of the Robin Hood Tax. Photo by Sarah Anderson.

Nurses check up on Bill Nighy after his endorsement of the Robin Hood Tax. Photo by Sarah Anderson.

Bill Gates came because French President Nicolas Sarkozy asked him to give G20 leaders recommendations on how to raise funds to meet the needs of the world’s poorest. Among Gates’s proposals: a small tax on trades of stocks, derivatives, and other financial instruments, also known as a financial transactions tax (FTT), Wall Street speculation tax, or the Robin Hood tax.

According to an advance copy of Gates’s report, “FTTs already exist in many countries, where they generate significant revenue, so they are clearly technically feasible. According to the IMF, 15 G20 countries have some form of securities transaction tax. In the seven countries where the IMF estimates revenue, these taxes raise an estimated $15 billion per year.”

“It is very plausible that certain kinds of FTTs could work,” Gates told the Guardian. “I am lending some credibility to that. This money could be well spent and make a difference.”

Gates has a net worth of $59 billion. So forget the 1 percent, he’d be in what, the top 0.001 percent? Meanwhile, representatives of the 99 percent were outside the summit security zone, plugging the same idea.

National Nurses United, the largest union representing U.S. nurses, came to France from the Occupy Wall Street protests across the United States where they have been providing first aid for the encampments. In Cannes, they dressed in their scrubs and joined nurses from Australia, France, Ireland, and Korea. This global group then administered an FTT saline drip to an ailing world economy — represented by a man painted in full body art as the Earth.

“The economic decline is literally making our patients sick,” said one of the U.S. nurses. “We see more and more children with conditions related to poor nutrition and stress.” The solution, according to the nurses, is a Wall Street tax that could generate the revenues needed to address human needs.

Bill Nighy, an actor famous for his roles in “Love, Actually” and other British films, jumped right into the world economy’s hospital bed and posed for photos. “People around the world are dying of illnesses that should have been eliminated hundreds of years ago,” Nighy said, noting that a new Wall Street tax could help raise the money required to stop those scourges.

One of his contributions to the campaign for such a tax in the UK was a video that went viral, in which he plays a banker trying to argue against the idea. Ultimately, his character can’t find a good reason why not to raise huge amounts of money for the things people need through a tiny tax on financial transactions.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZzZIRMXcxRc

Back inside the summit venue, there’s a frenzy of last-minute lobbying going on to try to line up a group of G20 governments to launch a “coalition of the willing on FTT.” The Obama administration isn’t expected to be on the list.

But RoseAnn DeMoro, National Nurses United’s executive director, said, “Nurses don’t give up on people and they won’t give up on this.” The union also spearheaded a rally in Washington, DC today, with more than a thousand nurses and their allies targeting opponents of the Wall Street tax in the Treasury Department and Congress.

Sarah Anderson directs the Global Economy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.