Nurses Call for Taxing Wall Street

By Seth Sandronsky

Members of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United and their backers rallied Sept. 1 at congressional offices of Democrats and Republicans in 21 states across America for a half-percent federal tax on big financial transactions to raise $350 billion annually to fund jobs, health care and schools. The tax would apply to stocks, securities, debt purchases, options, credit swaps, foreign currency bets and derivatives only, according to the CNA/NNU. ATM transactions would be exempt.

Shirley Toy, 52, is a registered nurse at the University of California at Davis Medical Center in Sacramento , CNA/NNU member, mother and capital city resident. Accompanied by her daughter, a high school senior, Toy said that patients fear being unable to pay their medical bills amid the weak economy of sustained un- and underemployment, as Congress and the White House shovel money from labor to capital.

“Wall Street has gotten bailed out, and a financial transaction tax would benefit working people losing their jobs and health insurance,” she said outside the Sacramento office of Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.). The NNU, citing data from the Center for Responsive Politics, said that finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE) firms donated a total of $897,792 to Rep. Lungren since 1989. In a Sacramento town hall meeting the previous week, Lungren said that the most pressing problem of the federal government is to reduce the amount of its debt by cutting spending in part on Medicare. 

Elizabeth Pataki, 72, is a retired registered nurse who worked at Mercy General Hospital in Sacramento, a CNA/NNU member and mother. Like Toy, Pataki observed the harmful impacts of the current economic landscape on the people under the care of her profession. “Nurses are seeing widespread declines in their patients’ living standards,” she said. Mia Pinto-Ochoa, 39, is a resident of Elk Grove in South Sacramento and CNA/NNU member who works as a registered nurse at Kaiser Hospital in South Sacramento. According to her, three patients she recently cared for on a single work shift had just been laid off and were hurrying to have surgeries while they still had health-care benefits yesterday. “ Main Street is broken and Wall Street needs to pay to fix it,” Pinto-Ochoa said.

Toy, Pataki and 60 CNA/NNU members and supporters first gathered outside Lungren’s second floor office to speak out for the financial tax. Later, they entered his office, marching single-file and singing “This Land Is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie.

One speaker was Cathy Kennedy, 55, a registered nurse with the CNA/NNU who lives in Carmichael, an unincorporated area of Sacramento County, and works in the intensive care nursery at Kaiser Permanente in the city of Roseville, east of Sacramento. “The tax of one-half of one percent that we are proposing on large financial transactions could generate $350 billion annually to fund health care, infrastructure, jobs and schools,” she said outside Lungren’s Sacramento office. “It’s time for Wall Street to pay its fair share.”

It’s living large. The US finance industry gained 32% of corporate profits between 2008-2010 compared to less than 10% of such profits during the 1960s, according to economist Dean Baker, citing federal Commerce Dept. figures.

The US had a financial transaction tax from 1914-1966, according to the CNA/NNU, and such a tax is now in effect in 15 nations including the United Kingdom. The Sacramento protesters left Lungren’s district headquarters and drove to the office of Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), to ask him to back the proposal for a financial transaction tax. According to the NNU, citing CRP figures, FIRE firms donated $571,819 to Rep. McClintock since 2009.

Thousands of union nurses and allies took part in the nationwide protests calling for Wall Street to heal America, according to Chuck Idleson, spokesman for the CNA/NNU. The protests included a sit-in outside the Richmond office of Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), prompting a meeting with the union demonstrators. The next major action will be in San Francisco in mid-September, coinciding with the CNA/NNU convention, Idleson said.

Seth Sandronsky writes in Sacramento. Email

From The Progressive Populist, October 1, 2011

News | Current Issue | Back Issues | Essays | Links

About the Progressive Populist | How to Subscribe | How to Contact Us

Copyright © 2011 The Progressive Populist
PO Box 819, Manchaca TX 78652