07/29/2010 05:01 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Taxing Wall Street Greed to Pay for Global Needs

After President Obama signed the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act last week, Congressman Pete Stark (D-Calif.) advanced the theme of financial (and moral) responsibility by introducing the Investing in Our Future Act (H.R. 5783). This smart new legislation would place a tiny levy on an untaxed financial market most Americans don't even think about -- the foreign currency exchange market, where one currency is exchanged for another. This small fee has the potential to raise urgently needed funds for climate change and health programs in impoverished countries.

The financial crisis has pushed millions around the world deeper into poverty and forced already strapped countries to further cut budgets for environmental and health programs. Yet Wall Street continues to reap massive profits and pay its executives exorbitant bonuses.

The Investing in Our Future Act would tap very lightly into Wall Street's exploding coffers of wealth by placing a micro-tax of only 0.005 percent on currency transactions by large-scale investors in the U.S. The bill exempts transactions under $10,000, so it would have very little impact on small-scale traders, middle class investors, and travelers.

Although it's a drop in the behemoth bucket of Wall Street's profits, this minuscule levy could generate billions to solve some of the most pressing global crises! And, as an added bonus, this tiny tax would help curb speculation, which happens when Wall Street profiteers bet on infinitely small differences in currency costs to earn quick cash -- a risky game that fuels instability in financial markets to the detriment of society.

As a top climate polluter and the planet's largest economy, the U.S. owes the world a huge debt when it comes to climate change. The Investing in Our Future Act would begin to steer the United States on the right path toward living up to our responsibilities. Forty percent of the revenues generated would go toward United Nations climate funding to help developing countries deal with climate impacts that they did not cause, such as increasingly severe droughts, floods, crop losses and water shortages. This fund would also assist developing countries grow their economies sustainably with clean technology solutions. The rest would help provide critical public goods -- 40 percent for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and other international health initiatives and 20 percent for affordable childcare for working parents in the U.S.

Before the House of Representatives recesses for August at the end of this week, I invite you to ask your members in Congress to co-sponsor this important piece of legislation. You can join Friends of the Earth by taking action here.