Actor Mark Ruffalo and Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello have launched a new US campaign for a "Robin Hood tax", a small levy on Wall Street transactions that organisers say could generate hundred of billions of dollars a year.
The campaign, backed by National Nurses United, the largest nursing union in the US, has already launched in 14 countries, including the UK, France and Germany.
Organisers of the campaign, which also features Coldplay singer Chris Martin, are calling for a tax of "less than half of 1%" on Wall Street transactions, which they say would not affect most Americans' financial activity.
Adopting the 99% language of the Occupy movement, the campaign said the tax would "easy to enforce and tough to evade".
"This is a tax on Wall Street, which created the greatest economic crisis in our nation and globally since the Great Depression," a statement said on the movement's website.
"The same people who have returned to record profits and bonuses while ordinary Americans, the 99%, continue to pay the price of their crisis."
A video released to coincide with the launch encourages supporters to take a $1 bill and draw a Robin Hood-style hat on George Washington's head along with a mask over his eyes "because the government is robbing our people at this particular point".
In a blogpost on the campaign's website, Ruffalo said that the "tragic irony" of the financial crisis was that "while ordinary Americans are still picking up the pieces today, those most responsible – Wall Street – have returned to their stranger-than-fiction reality".
"A Robin Hood Tax would raise revenue from Wall Street while reining in their worst excesses – helping to rebalance the American economy," Ruffalo said.
"For all these big ambitions, the tax is surprisingly small: less than half of 1%, or about 50¢ on every $100 of trades. It would apply not to ordinary Americans (the rate is set so low precisely to avoid impacting ordinary people and businesses) but to Wall Street's sprawling, churning predatory casino-style trading that helped drive the financial crisis. We're talking high-frequency trades carried out by computer algorithms, billion-dollar bets on currency fluctuations, credit default swaps and other derivatives.
"Because these financial markets have grown so large, the tax is capable of raising hundreds of billions of dollars a year. Money that could stop foreclosures, fund new jobs and help repair the social safety net in the US."
Since the first Robin Hood Tax campaign launched in the UK in 2010 it has been supported by economists, charities and various celebrities. Bill Gates gave his backing to the tax last year, presenting a report – Innovation with Impact – commissioned by Nicolas Sarkozy to the G20 meeting in Cannes.
The US campaign launch comes after hundreds of registered nurses travelled to Chicago in May, demonstrating with Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello for the Robin Hood Tax ahead of the Nato summit.
On Tuesday supporters were expected to rally at JP Morgan Chase's offices in New York, the demonstration coinciding with JP Morgan chief executive Jamie Dimon appearing in front of Congress. Dimon will be quizzed by the house financial services committee over his bank losing $2bn on high-risk derivative trading.
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image: © Janet McKnight