Actor, playwright and social commentator Anna Deavere Smith brought her one-woman show Tell Us Where It Hurts to the National Nurses United in Chicago as part of the nurses campaign to heal America.
Tell Us was developed by Smith based on actual stories of nurses from around the world. Smith, best known as a nurse on the Emmy Award-winning Showtime comedy Nurse Jackie, maintains the authenticity of the original stories, and brings full characterizations and a theatrical flair. The stories are a range of tragedy and humor... of an aids orphanage in South Africa, of former Texas Governor Ann Richards, and even a bull rider from Idaho.
Tell Us is one of the most relevant current theatrical pieces and will hopefully be taken on the road across the country (after a minor tweaking by Smith of choosing one of the characters to be the narrator). Revealed in the dialog of the show is the courage of nurses in face of a system which places barriers on their ability to heal:
"The goal of hospital management now is to move patients (out) as quickly as possible," received a round of agreement from the audience. "You got to work the system to get it to work for the vulnerable... (more nods)... Nurses see all the stuff of what is coming out from the economic meltdown... What happens to people who receive insufficient health care? They die or their life is severely changed... We need to simply say this isn't working. "
Every nurse I talked to earlier in the day at a rally in downtown Chicago and before the show had a similar personal story to add to the Smith's Tell Us Where It Hurts show. Not one nurse thought either the U.S. health care system or the U.S. economy was working. A nurse from California explained the struggle to maintain proper nurse-patient ratios which directly affect the outcome of health care (why else do wealthy people have private duty nurses)?
A Pennsylvania coal country nurse battled to keep the hospital bill collector away from her patient's room. A heart attack patient who had stents, had lost his high-paying job in the computer industry and his employer-paid health care. The nurse was afraid the stress of a bill collector in the hospital room of a recovering heart attack patient would cause her patient's heart to fail again. The nurse had to repeatedly boot the bill collector out of the patient's room.
When the National Nurses United, headed by Rose Ann DeMoro say that it isn't working, they refer not only to the health care system but to Wall Street which destroyed the economy. The effects of the economic meltdown have been more heart attacks, more anxiety attacks, ulcers and stomach-related illnesses and more suicide attempts further stressing the health care system.
Supported by more than 1,000 economists, National Nurses United call for a financial transactions tax on stock and derivative trading. In a nutshell, the nurses argue that everyone pays a sales tax. They ask why should the financial industry be untaxed? In fact about 40 countries already have some form of a financial transactions tax.
Depending on the exact particulars of the tax, a financial transactions tax could even take the profit out of excessive speculation such as computerized high frequency quote stuffing designed to add volatility to the markets. Lower volatility in the markets would over time, lead to reduced prices for food and gasoline. A financial transactions tax would provide hundreds of billions of dollars for health care, job creation and education.
Nurses see the economy as a patient in need of stabilization and are advancing an inherently conservative solution to stabilize the markets, the economy, and the health care system through a financial transactions tax.
The nurses came to Chicago to the raise awareness of the G-8 about the stabilization benefits of a financial transactions tax including reducing volatility in the financial markets. But the G-8 changed its meeting plans from Chicago to Camp David. It is now ironic that the first communication out of the G-8 meeting was about the need to reduce volatility in the markets.
A hat tip to Smith and a salute to all the nurses who may have had a part in the G-8 looking at a ways to stabilize financial markets.
One long footnote to this article: Questions to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange about a financial transactions tax and about the status of the Merc's investigation of the MF Global bankruptcy, where over a billion dollars of customer-segregated account money is still "missing," went unanswered.
If there had been a financial transactions tax in place as advocated by the National Nurses United before the bankruptcy of MF Global when customer money disappeared, the IRS would likely have been front and center in the investigation of missing customer money (if a financial transaction tax had not been paid; if the tax had been paid, the customer money would be easily traceable) rather than only other regulators who either abdicated early on in the investigation or who have other priorities.
A financial transactions tax which makes it difficult or impossible for customer money to disappear would help restore confidence in the markets. Restoration of confidence in the markets through a financial transactions tax, means that if they thought about it a little, the biggest proponents of a financial transactions tax would be Wall Street itself. But don't bet on that happening.