The Robin Hood Tax could emancipate American workers from debt bondage

In his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery In The New World, the historian David Brion Davis contends that ownership is not necessary for enslavement. What is, he posits, is debt, or the vassal’s “perpetual condition of dishonor,” which provides the “master class with a resource for parasitic and psychological exploitation,” imposing on the slave a type of “social death.”

Davis quotes the Greek 6th-century reformer Solon, who explained his decision to abolish slavery: “All the common people,” Solon said, “are in debt to the rich.”

If debt is the key factor in slavery, then what can we say about 21st century Americans, where total outstanding debt exceeds $11 trillion, corporate profits are at an all-time high, and wages have flat-lined? Astonishingly, the debt obligation is more than the total annual economic output of China, which has a population four times larger than in the U.S.   
 
Reintroduced Thursday by Representative Keith Ellison, the Inclusive Prosperity Act – H.R. 1464 -  could emancipate American workers from debt bondage, by requiring the banking industry to finally pay its fair share. The legislation authored by the Minnesota Democrat would raise between $300 and $350 billion annually, by adding a sales tax of 50 cents to every $100 traded in speculative Wall Street transactions.
 
Supported by 172 national organizations, which in total, represents millions of trade union members, religious groups, environmentalists, politicians, anti-poverty activists, clerics and health advocates --- including National Nurses United—the Robin Hood tax closes any number of gaps in our social infrastructure. We could finance a real assault on the climate crisis, provide enough funding to actually eradicate the HIV/AIDS epidemic, build affordable housing, create good jobs with decent wages, relieve students of their student loan debt, pay for healthcare for everyone, or even, by some estimates, end poverty altogether.   
 
“Inequality in health, rampant hunger, homelessness and poverty continue to devastate far too many families,” said Registered Nurse Deborah Burger, an NNU co-president.  “The climate crisis puts our planet at risk and is rapidly accelerating extreme weather events, droughts, and epidemics that threaten public health. We need the Robin Hood Tax, best embodied in Rep. Ellison’s bill, to raise the revenues we desperately need to protect our health, our families, our communities, and our nation,”
 
While most Americans pay up to a nearly 9 percent sales tax on everything from shoes, to appliances to automobiles, Wall Street currently pays no tax on stock trades, derivatives and other speculative instruments.

And the Inclusive Property Act zeroes in on those on Wall Street speculators – currency traders and derivative marketers – whose reckless gambling with our home mortgages, savings, and the overall economy caused the 2008 economic crash.

The bill would exempt households with adjusted gross incomes under $75,000; nor would the fee apply to ordinary consumer activity, such as credit card or ATM transactions, checking accounts, and minimal impact on individual retirement accounts and pensions.  

Said Ellison: “America’s working families need their country to invest in them again. The money raised from a wafer-thin tax on Wall Street’s high frequency trades could raise hundreds of billions of dollars to invest in our families, protect our environment and increase opportunity for all Americans. If the United States joins the dozens of other nations already benefitting from a financial transaction tax, we can create millions of jobs, while also reducing dangerous market volatility.”
 

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