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Nurses Call the Question on Obama and Global Financial Transaction Tax -- Which Side Are You On?

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Will President Obama be the main holdout when world leaders, under growing pressure from the occupy Wall Street protests across the world and the escalating demand for a tax on international financial transactions (FTT), meet in early November at the G-20 summit in France?

Nurses from at least four continents, including a U.S. delegation from National Nurses United, will deliver that message November 3 at the G-20 summit meeting in Cannes.

They will urge enactment of a FTT to heal global economies, promote sustainable development and environmental security, and strengthen quality public services.

Nurses will be joined by labor, environmental, non-governmental, and community activists who have made the FTT campaign an international movement that has sparked the adoption of the tax by more than a dozen nations. It has also prompted the European Commission to propose a global FTT which is expected to be on the agenda at the G-20 summit.

The call for a FTT, sometimes called a "Robin Hood tax" (a form of such a tax was actually in place in the U.S. for most of the first half of the last century), has become a powerful force, especially in Europe.

But a major stumbling block continues to be opposition from the Obama administration, led by U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, who has personally lobbied European finance ministers to oppose a FTT despite the support for the proposal from ostensibly more conservative governments in Germany and France.

That's one reason that nurses from across the U.S. will hold a concurrent protest on Geithner's doorstep, with a march outside the Treasury Department on November 3 in Washington.

As the campaign for an FTT has mounted internationally, it remained under the radar in the U.S. until NNU helped rekindle the call for a tax on Wall Street transactions earlier this year.

Seeing the broadening decline in health status and living standards directly linked to the seemingly intractable economic calamity -- from ailments linked to poor nutrition to patients rejecting needed medical care because of cost -- NNU leaders reasoned that a tax on Wall Street could help raise the desperately needed revenue for such critical social needs as health care for all, jobs at living wages, full funding for quality public education, and a healthy environment.

Some major U.S. economists, and organizations including the AFL-CIO, Oxfam, Institute for Policy Studies, and Public Citizen have long supported implementation of a tax on Wall Street stocks, bonds, currencies, default swaps, and other major financial transactions that are now largely untaxed.

This past spring, NNU, with the support of labor and consumer allies, began a highly visible public campaign for the tax as a major way to make Wall Street begin to pay for reviving an economy that it crashed.

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Nurses rally on Wall Street in June

The banks and other financial institutions did so through reckless gambling with family mortgages, worker pensions and other misdeeds that were the prime cause of the 2008 crash and resulting crumbling conditions in Main Street communities with devastating consequences for the health and welfare of American families.

In June, NNU brought thousands of nurses and friends to the Washington headquarters of the Chamber of Commerce, Wall Street's main lobbying arm, and to the New York Stock Exchange to sound the call for a FTT.

From July through mid-September, NNU members held multiple actions from coast to coast, including soup kitchens, health clinics, sit-ins, and street theater, culminating in a national day of action on September 1 with thousands of nurses calling on 60 Congressional offices in 21 states. NNU signs, urging "Tax Wall Street" become a highly visible banner throughout the nation.

It was just a few weeks later that tens of thousands of other Americans began their own form of protest against Wall Street's excesses that became a prairie fire now forever known as Occupy Wall Street.

Not coincidentally, many Occupy Wall Street protesters have also endorsed the call for a tax on Wall Street and the Canadian magazine Adbusters, an initiator of the proposal for the occupy protests, has also publicly urged enactment of a FTT.

Calls for an FTT now ring the airwaves, and can be found not just in obscure blogs, but in the columns of leading writers in all of the major U.S. media, such as in this commentary by Katrina vanden Heuvel in the Washington Post. That's one reason that reviews of a significant new book on the Obama White House, Confidence Men by Ron Suskind, routinely note that President Obama himself once leaned toward supporting a FTT but was dissuaded by his former top economic adviser, Larry Summers who, like Geithner, has a substantial Wall Street pedigree.

With the constellation of the occupy protests and the broad international movement for the FTT, the moment for achieving the tax, and the critical revenue it can provide to help revive struggling economies, has never been greater.

But only if all of us raise our voices demanding that the Obama administration join the global movement and support a FTT.

We need your voice as well. Join us on November 3 in Cannes or Washington D.C. Call the White House, 202-456-1111 and tell them to tax Wall Street financial transactions and get on the side of Main Street not Wall Street. Learn more about our campaign at www.mainstreetcontract.org.

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