Saturday, October 29, 2011

Revolution 7, "Hello, I'm Hood"

"Hello, I'm..."

Robyn and her Merry... Ladies

Last Wednesday euro zone leaders agreed on a deal for banks to forgive 50% of their loans to Greece, Europe's hardest hit country after the financial crisis of the last several years, where the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank had been forcing the Greek government to slash spending and install severe austerity measures, measures which have angered the people of Greece to the point they have paralyzed the country with strikes and riots. The IMF and WB are up to their old "Shock Doctrine," tricks, rush in and change everything while the country's in chaos, withhold loans until the government privatizes national institutions, and scuttles all social welfare programs, and salaries, and then make the exception the norm as the country licks its wounds. Usually, in the classic SD scenario the general population is subdued by the military and police while they are raped. But the people were having none of it and besides... the revolution was televised, and videoed, and Facebooked, and Interneted. As the Occupy Wall Streeters are so fond of saying, "The world is watching." The whole world was watching indeed.
Hopefully the deal struck Wednesday will take some of the pressure off of Greece's leaders, the European Union itself, and the rest of the world's financial markets. Indeed, the developments in Europe lifted global equity markets and other risk assets Thursday. In Europe, the FTSE 100 Index closed 2.89% higher, while the CAC 40 Index closed 6.28% higher. Earlier, Asian markets also rallied, with the Hang Seng Index closing 3.26% higher. In the U.S. the Dow Jones average ended the day 2.87% higher at 12,209.54, the S&P 500 ended the day 3.43% higher at 1,284.59, and the Nasdaq ended the day 3.32% higher at 2,738.63. Everybody seemed to be happy for the time being.
Except for the OWS crowd camped out in Zuccotti Park and all of the other Occupy movements around the country and world, and all of the people in all of the nations where austerity measures were being forced upon them by their own governments in a misguided effort to stabilize their economies after the financial crisis of 2007/2008 brought upon the world by Wall Street bankers.
Except for all of those people and all of the people they represented, everything was just peachy.
Nothing's enough for these people.
They want to march today to bring attention to the meeting next week of the G20 members in France, and they have a suggestion for the leaders and finance ministers who will be meeting there. They want to impose a new tax on all financial transactions... all of them! A financial transaction tax, or as some have affectionally called it, a Robin Hood Tax.
The G20 nations, which represent 85% of the world's economy, consist of South Africa, Canada, Mexico, the United States, Argentina, Brazil, China, Japan, South Korea, India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Turkey, the European Union, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Australia. The Heads of State of these countries, or their representatives will meet in Cannes for 48 hours beginning on November 3rd and 4th. They're going to be pretty busy according to French President Nicholas Sarkozy, who is in charge of the meeting's agenda. He has listed coordinating economic policies, reducing global macroeconomic imbalances and strengthening financial regulation as the priorities for the two-day meeting . He also wants to reform the international monetary system, combat commodity price volatility, improve global governance, and secure assistance for developing nations. Worthy goals. It's good they gave themselves a whole two days to get everything done.
The Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, will argue for action on food security, better infrastructure, and getting more value out of "remittances," money sent home by migrant workers to their families, which amounts to around $440 billion U.S. dollars a year.
"The needs of the developing world must be central to the G20 agenda, not something peripheral or remote," she says.
The second richest guy in the world, Bill Gates will be there to deliver a report on how to inject more money into developing nations and get better value for those funds.
It all sounds pretty good, right?
Not everybody's doing the Snoopy Dance about it though. Anti-globalisation and anti-capitalist groups are gathering ahead of the G20 meeting, and they have some complaints.
The host country remembers violent protests at other G20 gatherings and has enacted tight security in and around Cannes for the duration of the meeting. The whole city is expected to be cordoned off. Extraordinary security measures will involve most of the town's 4,000 manhole covers soldered shut and airborne spy cameras deployed. Gas stations around Cannes and Nice will be closed, and local hospitals have canceled non-urgent surgery in preparation for a possible influx of patients.
They expect people will be injured. Why?
A People’s forum has negotiated permission from local authorities to meet in Nice, 20 miles from Cannes. The forum will gather countless organizations, from Attac (Association for the Taxation of financial Transactions and for Citizen Action) to Oxfam France, from Greenpeace France, to Action against Hunger, and a host of others. Some believe the G20 is not sincere in their stated efforts.
With their slogan "People first, not Finance!" they are determined to generate strong mobilization against the G20 and its policy of financial supremacy. Their meeting revolves around six themes:
1. Stop austerity, end inequalities (austerity, employment, social rights, welfare, debt)
2. The people, not the market (finance regulation and debt)
3. Change the system, not the planet (environment, development)
4. Don’t gamble with our food (agriculture, food)
5. Indignados, Rebels, Solidarity (democracy, struggle in Mediterranean region, human rights)
6. They’re 20, we’re billions (global governance)
"(This system) empowers a small group of people, and a small group of countries (the G20) that have the financial and economic power to basically do whatever they want with it, and whatever they want with their money - to refinance the banks, to promote the capitalist system that we live in, instead of wanting a change, " said Antoine Lupera, member of the executive committee of the French Communist Party
Above all, "they are against one of our main principles," he told the Inter Press Service. "Humans should come first, and that won’t be the case with this kind of meeting [again, the G20 summit]."
Valérie Brulant, member of Attac, said that given the last G20 conclusions, this group is about communication and never about concrete action. One of the main reasons for such hypocrisy is it lacks the means to apply its decisions, and to sanction countries that do not implement them, she said.
"The G20 is not only illegitimate but also harmful," she continued. It is illegitimate because while the financial, economic and social crises affect all countries around the world, "only 20 are gathering to solve the problem, and 174 others cannot say a word. This is unacceptable."
It is harmful, she said, because "the G20 does everything to perpetuate the system and to support the financial markets, and so the dictatorship of finance. The race to short-term benefits is detrimental to people, to social rights and to environmental rights."
Gildas Jossec, an expert on financial regulation and lobbying transparency at AITEC (the International Organization of Technicians Experts and Researchers, which will take part in the People’s forum), told IPS (Inter Press Service) that the bank system must focus on financing the economy. Then it would "speculate less on the financial markets…thus taking less reckless risks."
He also supported implementation of the financial transactions tax, that Robin Hood Tax I mentioned earlier, which could generate a considerable amount of money for development financing and the fight against climate change. But, he said, the financial lobby, which led to the economic crisis, is an obstacle.
He's right. Our own Secretary of the Treasury, Timothy Geithner, is against implementation of such a tax. I must say it doesn't surprise me.
Let me provide a little background please... just a little.
Here's a short video describing the tax and attempts to implement it last year in Toronto:
Robin Hood sure has changed since I was a kid. They're much prettier than Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner these days (maybe even Errol Flynn).
Hey Robyn, I need comforting too!
Err, in any case, the Canadian based non-profit, anti-consumerist, pro-environment organization Adbusters,
which could be said to have instigated the OWS movement with a call for protesters to settle in New York City last September 17th, which is exactly what happened, resulting in a national and global movement. They along with other organizations such as National People's Action and BanksterUSA, have called for today's march to draw attention and support for the Robin Hood Tax (RHT), which according to them, places a 0.05% to 1% tax on each financial transaction made by banks, speculators, and whatever. Transactions like stocks, bonds, foreign currency and derivatives, "a sales tax on each Wall Street trade."
A "Robin Hood" transaction tax on banks would raise as much as $400 to $650 billion dollars a year, campaigners have said. "We want you to slow down some of that $1.3-trillion easy money that's sloshing around the global casino each day -- enough cash to fund every social program and environmental initiative in the world."
How would the tax income be spent? Some offer this formula: 50% to fight poverty in developed countries, 25% to fight poverty in developing countries, and 25% to fight climate change at home and abroad.
If it were up to me I would divide the funds evenly between those three worthy goals, 33.3% each. I would also suggest that a program utilizing some of these funds be used to get money out of the political process in the United States, with financing provided by the taxation of the very institutions that have provided campaign contributions in the past, and which have bought Congress, the courts, and to a large degree the executive branch of our government.
BanksterUSA states, "When reckless Wall Street trading crashed the global economy, putting 8 million Americans out of work and tanking state and federal tax revenues, American taxpayers bailed out the big banks to the tune of $4.7 trillion. That is trillion with a “T”. Now we are being asked to put up with astronomical unemployment, cuts in pay, cuts in health care, cuts in Medicare and Social Security, larger class sizes and smaller pensions. Enough is enough! We have done our part, now it’s time for Wall Street to do its part." Through the payment of this tax.
Bankster initiated a "Tax Wall Street" petition drive targeting U.S. policymakers and the new Congressional "Super Committee," which needs to think about doing something other than slashing critical social programs, and raise revenues. This is what the petition says:

Dear Congressmember:

The deficit issue that we face today was in large part created by the world financial crisis, a crisis caused by Wall Street speculation. Now it’s time to call upon Wall Street to start paying its fair share to help us out of the hole they dug.
A small tax on financial market transactions has the potential to raise significant revenue and simultaneously limit reckless short-term speculation that can threaten financial stability. We are writing to ask you to support such a tax, and to request that it be part of any new budget plan.
Financial transaction taxes have a long track record both in the United States and globally. The United States had a transfer tax from 1914 to 1966. The UK levies a transaction tax on stock transfers and has done so for many years. The European Union is on the verge of approving a small transaction tax, including ten cents per $100 on stock transactions. The tiny transaction tax they are working on is estimated to raise over $70 billion annually. A similar transaction tax in the United States would raise even more money, as our financial markets are larger.
We join over 1,000 economists who recently signed an open letter advocating a financial speculation tax as "technically feasible" and "morally right."

One of those economists is our friend, Paul Krugman, which an endorsement by him, for me, adds a lot of weight to the validity of the argument for this tax (other than I like the general idea of sticking it to Wall St).
There are a few who don't like the idea. Those other than Wall Street bankers and stock brokers.
European Central Bank president president Jean-Claude Trichet warned that implementing the tax could hurt Europe unless it could be rolled out globally. Great Britain's prime minister David Cameron remains opposed to the tax unless it can be implemented globally as well. Why?
Because some believe that if it is not implemented globally businesses in countries that impose the tax will just move to countries that don't to keep from paying it. That's simple enough.
Critics also contend that the tax may reduce the total volume traded in financial products, which could increase unemployment in the financial industry and its ancillary services. Some say it would render the market less efficient, or the tax could double the cost of certain financial transactions and could cause the Dow Jones Industrial Average to fall by 12.5%, or A "Robin Hood" type transaction tax would reduce the incentive to provide liquidity to the capital markets, or the banks would pass all costs on to their customers, with no guaranteed transparency about who exactly would bear the costs.
It is also unlikely, in my opinion, that the new revenues the tax would provide would be used for the lofty purposes proposed by the campaigns pushing for the tax, since the entities in charge of collecting the tax, namely national governments, would use these funds for politically expedient purposes, such as has occurred with Social Security trusts. Unless this money was mandated by law to be used for very specific purposes, Congress in the U.S. and other governing bodies in other countries, would just use it for whatever they wanted, with empty promises of paying it back at some unspecified future date.
These concerns are valid. Still I believe these and other unforseen difficulties arising from the implementation of this tax can be dealt with in an effective manner, and the revenue raised to the advantage of the people of the world, rather than the CEOs and stockholders of multinational corporations, and corrupt politicians.
There are #ROBINHOOD actions currently planned in San Antonio, Las Vegas, Montreal, Durango, Calgary, Washington DC, Santa Fe, Denver, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Sydney, Amarillo, Edmonton, Salt Lake City, Berlin, and more in 43 different countries.
Everyone agrees that something has to change. That's what the OWS movement is all about. The Robin Hood Tax can be the first significant step in the right direction.

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