“Supporting the RHT is a 'no brainer,’” said Rep. Danny Davis of Chicago, as he donned a Robin Hood hat Tuesday.
Main Street is still waiting to be paid back. That was the message delivered on October 2 to Congressional districts up and down California, in Massachusetts, New York City, throughout Metro Chicago, in Las Vegas, San Antonio and in Burnsville, Minn., too.
“The Inclusive Prosperity Act,” H.R. 6411, introduced September 14 by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), is legislation that can put this country on a path to healing. That’s what nurses, health care and AIDS activists and other community allies had to say to their members of Congress.
H.R. 6411 calls for a small sales tax on Wall Street speculation in tax, bonds, derivatives and currencies, one that will raise up to $350 billion a year, revenue to be directed to ailing communities here and to international efforts to combat HIV/AIDS and more.
It was four years ago today that the Troubled Asset Relief Plan (TARP) became law, enabling the wholesale transfer of hundreds of billions of dollars from the U.S. Treasury to banks and financial institutions. Four years… millions of home foreclosures, more than 12 million Americans still out of work. That’s what motivated nurses and others to seek out members of Congress yesterday and ask: “Voters need to know: Which side are you on?”
The 30 people representing the Robin Hood Tax Campaign at Rep. Danny Davis' Chicago office got the answer they wanted.. Rep. Davis cut short a meeting underway with the Illinois State's Attorney to meet them Without delay, he signed the big check box card we presented, agreeing to support H.R. 6411.
“Supporting the RHT is a 'no brainer,’” said Rep. Davis, as he donned a Robin Hood hat.
Elsewhere in Chicago, the Robin Hood Tax Campaign visited Rep. Mike Quigley who was absent. A meeting for October 10 was set. Rep. Bobby Rush likewise was away.
Rush would probably support but the bill, a staffer reportedly told those present, and that it was “a message bill” only. To that, RHT Campaigners said: “Get on the message.”
At the offices of Rep. Jan Schakowsky, 40 Campaigners found her in! A feisty debate ensued, on the legislation’s timing. And Schakowsky indicated her support overall. And the staff of Rep. Luis Gutierrez explained that the district office focuses on “immigrant issues” almost exclusively – and not on “political issues.” HR 6411, it was offered, deals directly with issues fundamental to immigrants, as they need healthcare, housing and jobs.
“The money that was paid to Wall Street obviously saved them and saved their pocket books,” said Jean Ross, RN and co-president of National Nurses United, one of the founding organizations of Robin Hood Tax USA. “But it did not save the people, did not save Main Street. There is a reasonable way to fund the healing of Main Street and that is the Robin Hood Tax. They can certainly afford it. This law will get America back on track and keep America healthy.”
With an oversized calendar – “48 Months & Counting” – denoting TARP’s date of enactment, Ross and others representing the Robin Hood Tax Campaign entered the field office of Rep. John Kline. “In Minnesota, we rarely get to see the man,” recalled Ross. “We asked to speak to him. ‘He’s not here,’ his assistant responded. And then she repeated it. We identified ourselves, again, and she left the room. And then he came out!!”
“’Our patients, society need this money,’ we told Congressman Kline.”
“’Probably not gonna happen,’ he said.”
“’What about the people of Minnesota?’ we asked.”
In Central Harlem, where unemployment far exceeds NYC’s official rate of 9.9%, Rep. Charlie Rangel was absent from his field office. But Deputy District Director Jeffrey Eaton was present, and agreed to the delegation’s request to meet outside with the 50 Robin Hood Tax Campaigners, including Vocal NY, ACT UP, Health GAP, Physicians for National Plan, Healthcare for All and NNU members.
“We support the spirit and integrity of the bill,” said Eaton. “But we need to study it more, especially from the perspective of pensioners.” He was told that H.R. 6411’s sales tax fell on high-speed, high-frequency trading, not what pensioners rely upon. And besides, Eaton learned, individuals making less than $50,000 a year, households under $75,000, are exempt under the terms of the legislation. He promised a response.
In Cambridge, Massachusetts, AIDS activists and student supporters asked Rep. Mike Capuano to “Be their Robin Hood.” Thirty Robin Hood Tax supporters, dressed in green, wearing Robin Hood hats, and holding signs-- one inscribed “Help End AIDS, Sign On to H.R. 6411, gathered outside Capuano’s office and met with staffers. “We delivered a letter outlining our points,” said Darshali Vyas, a Harvard College junior. They gave the staff a Robin Hood hat and a delegation of students went inside to continue the discussion. They were extremely receptive, said the students.
“By providing a tangible mechanism to raise revenue for AIDS treatment, the Robin Hood Tax is really a unique opportunity for Congressman Capuano to reconcile his interests in health care and development commitments,” said Vyas.
Tim Carpenter, of Progressive Democrats of America (PDA), sent this message on the Sen. Scott Brown visit in Massachusetts. “They closed the Worcester office so we drove to his Springfield office to deliver the RHT postcards,” said Carpenter. “Great demo outside. MNA [Massachusetts Nurses Association], PDA and members of Unemployment Coalition. Going back October 17th at noon.”
In California, Robin Hood Tax Campaigners went to Rep. Dan Lungren’s office near Sacramento and met with staff and broke into a chorus exiting the offices.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, at Rep. George Miller’s office, the district director explained Miller was “still considering,” to which nurses vowed, “We’ll be back!” Rep. John Garamendi’s assistant met with 25 RN-supporters of the Robin Hood Tax. This was not the first time RHT Campaigners had met with Garamendi’s staff, they explained, and they called for his pledge. A staffer for Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi made no commitments while insisting the Robin Hood tax is “consistent with her values.”
Elsewhere in California, a delegation of nurses went to Rep. Tony Strickland's office in Simi Valley to present him with a large pledge card to sign. “Not something that Strickland could endorse while he is still a state senator,” said staff. Still, RHT Campaigners repeated their call for a pledge.
At the Los Angeles office of Rep. Xavier Becerra 35 RNs crammed into the office reception area, spilling out into the hallway. DeAnn McEwen, RN led the discussion with Becerra’s District Director. Nurses from across Southern California held up the calendar and pledge card props, explaining how congress took only 18 days to pass TARP and that Main Street has been waiting four years to be paid back. They got the message, said one nurse later. And at the offices of Rep. Brian Bilbray near San Diego, 20 nurses, caregivers and community members held a rally outside and a delegation was shown in.
In Las Vegas, a delegation went to the office of Sen. Dean Heller. “They wouldn't let us in the building, so Jack Finn, the Southern Nevada Director, came down to meet us outside,” said Maria Fehlig, RN, NNU staffer and RHT Campaigner. Fehlig and others stayed on and spoke to people as they were entering the building.
In San Antonio, Rep. Lloyd Doggett was not on hand, but five RNs representing Robin Hood pressed forward with a presentation to a Doggett staffer and at a nearby gathering with other community activists cards were distributed and interest ran high.
The Robin Hood Tax Campaign is just gathering steam.