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News Wrap Up — Occupy Wall Street, Vacate the Banks, Tax speculation, Go green Milwaukee

November 5, 2011

First: Please Help!  

This is a plea for donations. No,not for Ekos-Squared, but for Community Support Systems as part of Give-2-the Max Day – Washington, DC Area (November 9, 2011). CSS is a non-profit organization that provides many kinds of help to people in need who live in Southern Maryland, a stone’s throw from the nation’s Capital. Services include food pantries, “Mission Nutrition,” energy assistance, senior housing, homeless prevention and advocacy. Bad economic times add to the needs for all of these programs. So please do what you can.

Too contribute and read more go here.  

By way of disclosure, my wife Claudia directs this organization and its 87 volunteers; I am proud of their accomplishments over the past 15 years. 

Occupy Wall Street goes viral here and around the world.

Big OWS Demonstration NYC October 5, 2011; http://www.thenewsignificance.com/tag/activism/

For a good overview see Juan Gonzales article. Here are some of the notable OWS accomplishments:

The Robin Hood Tax; National Nurses United Leads Campaigns in Washington DC, and Cannes, France: 

The idea is simple. Place a tax on the speculative financial transactions — those Wall Street, Goldman Sachs, BOA,  deals that wrecked the economy in 2008 — bundling of mortgages, credit default swaps, derivatives and the like. The  Robin Hood tax on banks and financial institutions that would exact a nano-percentage of each financial transaction to the tune of 0.5 percent. That’s one half of 1 percent on every bond or derivative traded, stocks sold and a host of other “financial instruments” bought and sold by the very institutions bailed out by the world’s taxpayers.
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Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) introduced legislation that proposes a 0.03 percent tax on financial transactions that could raise more than 100 billion per year desperately needed to fund job-generating infrastructure projects, education, Medicare and other vital programs threatened by the Super Committee and Tea-Party backed legislators budget slashers. Of course Wall Street  (BIB, billions in bonuses) is throwing a hissy fit over the idea — their lobbyists in high gear.
The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) provides an excellent, clear explanation of the Robin Hood Tax. As the article details, taxes on financial transactions are not new, many nations have had them for years and the U.S. had one until 1966.  If you want an even simpler cartoon version go to this link. 
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Hank (left) and Fred Cole join NNU to support the Robin Hood Tax. Photo: Ekos-Squared

The National Nurses United November 3 Demonstration:  The NNU has played a major role in mobilizing organized labor and the public behind the Robin Hood Tax. Nurses are healers; they see first hand the consequences of universal and affordable health care. They have fought to provide better care for patients. But they have broadened their role to heal the economic damage that is impacting families and communities across the nation. On November 3, I joined my brother Fred Cole to participate in the NNU’s DC Rally and in support of the Robin Hood Tax. Many different unions joined as we paraded to the White House, the Treasury Department, Bank of America and finally to the Occupy Washington encampment at McPherson Square. Note: Ekos-Squared has featured the NNU’s struggles to win a contract for nurses at the Washington Hospital Center in several posts.
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Growing Establishment Support: Though rejected this weeks G-20 meeting, the financial transaction tax (FTT)  is supported by The concept has been endorsed by European leaders including Sarkozy of France, Merkel of Germany, the Pope, and business leaders, e.g. Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and the NY Times Editorial Board and Nobel economists Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz. Unfortunately Administration figures and especially Tim Geithner (Hero of Wall Street) have actively opposed the FTT. The President has been silent. The 99% will not shut up.

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Milwaukee: Progress Toward Sustainable Jobs:

On October 20, I had the honor of presenting the Second Annual Doug La Follette Lecture sponsored by Clean Wisconsin, one of the state’s leading environmental advocacy organizations. The site of the event was the Helios Solar Works plant located in the Menomonee Valley in the heart of Milwaukee. Helios a recent start-up is already in full gear making efficient, long-lasting photo-voltaic (PV) modules. The Menomonee Valley in the first half of the 20th century was a major industrial hub. After its collapse the Valley was left with dozens of abandoned buildings and contaminated land and badly damaged wetland ecosystems. However, in the 1990’s a collaboration of businesses, government and community activists (Menomonee Valley Partners) hatched an award winning sustainable redevelopment plan. My talk focused on Helios, the Valley, and other projects in Milwaukee that are providing thousands of jobs a better environment simultaneously. You can read my report, based on the presentation here.                                                                                                                                                                       

Menomonee Valley in 2000

 

The Hank Aaron Trail through Menomonee Valley

One Comment leave one →
  1. Henry S. Cole, Ph.D. permalink*
    November 6, 2011 12:51 pm

    Ben Stavis contributed the following comment via email:

    About the idea of a “Robin Hood tax” — There might be some logic in a Financial Transaction Tax — I don’t know. It would impinge mostly on the high-speed computer driven transactions. I don’t know if these transactions are market-stabilizing or destabilizing, or obviously biased in any direction.

    The Robin Hood phrase implies a tax on the wealthy, and I’m not sure that a FTT tax really does that. The stock/bond markets really affect everyone, or almost everyone. Who is in these markets? Almost anyone with a retirement plan, university endowments, church endowments, any business (including non-for-profit) that is dealing with cash-flow issues, municipalities trying to fund sewer plants, etc. etc. So a FTT really is focusing on the MODE of transaction, not the wealth of the people involved.

    A more sensible approach is to review the special treatment of capital gains. On the one hand, it seems bizarre that capital gains are at taxed at only 15%. That said, there is another dimension. For someone selling a house or farm that was purchased 20 or more years ago, the current market price is way more than the purchase price because of inflation. What looks like capital gains is really inflation. So there would be a logic in adjusting capital gains for inflation and then taxing it as regular income. Maybe this is too cumbersome to be practical.

    I guess what I am saying is that we need to go beyond pleasant slogans and figure out what will actually do what we are trying to do.

    In general, I think more attention needs to be placed on the theories of market failure (free riders, monopoly, lack of information, collective action problems, etc.) and a clearer understanding of what are public goods (like plowing snow from the streets, which require state actions funded by compulsory taxes) and what are not public goods (which should be managed privately). Also, we need a clearer distinctions between insurance against risk (getting hit by a car), general pooling of funds for normal expenses (periodic dental hygiene, contraception), and transfer payments from one group to another (middle age to old and young, rich to poor, one region to another, etc). In general, I think that whenever we rely on “third parties” (whether government or insurance companies) prices go up, both because of administrative costs and and because the governments and insurance companies have had few constraints to raise prices.

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