Congresswoman Barbara Lee Issues Statement on Financial Transaction Tax Bill

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) issued the following statement at a press conference on the Financial Transaction Tax Bill:

“I want to thank Congressman Keith Ellison for his remarkable work on this important legislation and for his excellent leadership of the Progressive Caucus. Let me also thank all the incredible advocates here today and across the nation who have been organizing and working on this bill including National Nurses United. Thanks for beating the drum!

“It is long past time for Wall Street to pay a financial transaction tax like they did in the 1950’s and 60’s when both the economy and the middle class were growing. More recently though, Wall Street traders gambled the economic future of our entire economy and then they were bailed out by the American people.

“Their out-of-control tactics spread across the world and nearly collapsed the global economy. A small tax on financial transactions will help bring some much-needed fairness to a system that can easily absorb it.  

“Not only do we need the revenue from this small tax to make critical investments in the economic future of all Americans, but specifically, revenue from this tax would also go a long way to increasing our health and development assistance, including securing AIDS medications for the millions of people who still wait in line for access. 

“It's past time for Wall Street to pay their fair share.

“Again, thank you Mr. Ellison for your leadership on this critical issue and I hope that all my colleagues will join us in support of this critical legislation.”


Congressmember Keith Ellison Re-Introduced the Inclusive Prosperity Act

WASHINGTON –Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and Chief Deputy Whip, reintroduced the Inclusive Prosperity Act  (H.R. 1579) today, which adds a tax of a fraction of a percent on transactions done by Wall Street firms and stock traders. Ellison was joined by leaders of National Nurses United, former Goldman Sachs investment banker Wallace Turbeville, Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica, and activists George Goehl and Jennifer Flynn.

“A lot of people in Washington like to talk about reducing the debt and deficits. Well if you really care about reducing the deficit, how about asking Wall Street speculators to pay their fair share?” Ellison said. “This bill will add a tax of a fraction of a percent on transactions made by the same Wall Street firms and stock traders who crashed our economy in 2008. This tax alone will generate up to $300 billion a year in revenue, stabilizing the deficit and allowing us to invest in the things that matter—education, roads and bridges, and health care for our seniors and veterans.”

The tax would reduce harmful financial market speculation, discourage high-volume, high-speed trading, and slow down the proliferation of ever more complex derivatives.

In 2011, 40 countries had a similar tax, as did the U.S. until 1966. A financial transaction tax has been recommended by business leaders and economists including Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz, Jeffrey Sachs, Robert Pollin, and Larry Summers. After the 1987 Wall Street crash, a financial transaction tax was endorsed by Bob Dole and President George H.W. Bush.

You can find photos from the press conference here.

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How to Stretch a Penny (Ask Robin Hood)

Posted Apr. 11, 2013 / Posted by: Karen Orenstein, Friends of the Earth

Though a number of wealthy countries attending a State Department-convened climate finance ministerial meeting on mobilizing private money have been trying to escape their obligation to use public funds to help the world’s poor confront the climate crisis (which, incidentally, the poor did not cause), Robin Hood found them today and demanded to be heard. He and his many supporters stood outside the hotel where the elite group had gathered in Washington, D.C. and loudly called for the implementation of a Robin Hood Tax (a.k.a. financial transaction tax), an extremely promising, untapped source of revenue that would raise hundreds of billions of dollars to create jobs; provide education, housing and global healthcare; and fight climate change.

Passers-by witnessed an epic tug-of-war between people and the planet on one side, and big banks on the other. It was the walruses, polar bears, Robin Hood and ordinary folks versus the fat cat bankers. They were struggling over a tiny tax on big banks, symbolized by a giant penny.

According to a spokesperson representing Wall Street and City of London tycoons standing on the right side of the rope, “If I lose the money, I will not be able to fly in my private jet. Oh wait, that’s not true. I will still have enough money to fly in my jet. I might make way less money! Oh wait, actually there’s no data to back that up. I will not be able to afford healthcare! Oh wait, actually if there was a Robin Hood Tax, healthcare would be affordable for everyone. Well, dammit, I just don’t want to give up any of my pennies!”

At which point, Robin Hood retorted, “But, Banker, the Robin Hood Tax is waaaayyyy less than a penny!”

Mr. Hood was correct. At no more than half-a-penny, the Robin Hood Tax is a micro-tax on Wall Street trading that would curb harmful speculation and raise hundreds of billions of dollars of new revenue to pay for urgently-needed public goods and services, like helping the poor cope with the threats to public health and food shortages caused by our changing climate. It would simply levy a teeny tiny fee on financial transactions—most of which are traded not by people, but by computers in a matter of micro-seconds—involving stocks, bonds, currency exchanges and derivatives. As Robin Hood likes to say, “It’s small change for the banks but big change for the people.”

Throughout the tug-of-war, Robin Hood’s supporters – even those of the animal kingdom – could be heard chanting:

No more budget cuts on our backs;

Fight climate change with a Robin Hood Tax!

Public money’s good,

Says Robin Hood;

Robin Hood Tax now!

 

As they dispersed, Robin Hood’s supporters expressed cautious optimism that their message was well-received. After all , they had interacted with ministry representatives from the U.S., U.K., Poland, Japan, Canada and Norway. Norway’s representative even joined in the fun to show his support for Robin Hood.

Rather than focusing on how to guarantee high returns for Wall Street and the City of London, the U.S. and other countries should finally start taxing them to help pay for global public goods and services, like meeting the adaptation and mitigation needs of ordinary people in developing countries, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.


On the heels of Novartis victory taming evergreening of patents on medicines, European Investment Clause proposals in EU-India FTA threaten to undo all gains

By Brook Baker, Senior Policy Analyst

The stunning reaffirmation of India's commitment to prevent evergreening of patent monopolies on medicines has been widely celebrated following the India Supreme Court's decision upholding the rejection of a secondary patent on Novartis' cancer medicine, Glivec.  It is widely hoped that the willingness of Indian courts to fairly review and limit patent monopolies on medicines, as they are expressly allowed to do under the WTO TRIPS Agreement, will be repeated in the pending court review of India's first compulsory license to Natco on a Bayer cancer medicine, Nexavar.  

However, India's efforts to preserve policy space so as to ensure access to medicines for all, both in India and in developing countries more broadly, is under threat because of an obscure provision that the EU is seeking in its pending trade negotiations with India.  Under the so-called investment clause, foreign IP investors, like Novartis and Bayer, will be given rights to sue the Indian government directly whenever their expectations of profit are frustrated by government decisions and policies.  Using loose standards like minimum standards of treatment, indirect expropriation, and national treatment, transnational corporations will be able claim that denying patents, granting oppositions, revoking patents, issuing compulsory licenses, and registering generics before patent expiration all violate their expectations for profit.

Threats like this used to be theoretical, but the theoretical has now become real.  In November of 2012, Eli Lilly sued the government of Canada for $100 million under NAFTA's investment chapter because Canada had invalidated a patent on a medicine used to treatment attention deficit disorders.  The patent was invalidated pursuant to requirements in Canadian patent law that an applicant must satisfy the promise of utility (in India called industrial applicability) by disclosing evidence pointing to a claimed benefit of the medical innovation.  

Eli Lilly didn't like this ruling, so it is seeking to greatly expand the accepted meanings of minimum standards of treatment, indirect expropriation, and national treatment to argue that Canada should not be able to have a patent standard on utility and disclosure of utility that is any higher than that currently practiced in the US and EU.  It argues further that it should not have to disclose information needed to satisfy patent requirements in Canada that is above and beyond what is required in clearinghouse, patent application forms filed pursuant to the Patent Cooperation Treaty.

If Eli Lilly can file this kind of expansive, topsy-turvy claim in Canada with respect to its decision to revoke a patent, what would prevent Novartis and Bayer to file claims against India because it has adopted strong protections against evergreening in section 3(d) of its Patents Act and allowed compulsory licensing in section 84?  In fact, these are exactly the kinds of claims that a major international corporate law firm, Jones Day, is urging companies to file under existing investment clauses that India has ill-advisedly entered into.

Novartis and Bayer, and the rest of Big Pharma, are relentless in their search for monopoly rights and monopoly profits.  The right to sue governments directly when their unquenchable thirst for profits is thwarted is a dangerous escalation of corporate power.  These kinds of cases are expansive to defend (average cost to governments over $8 million/case) and have cost taxpayers globally nearly $3 billion and counting.  Four hundred investor-state cases are currently pending, and pharmaceutical claims, once the floodgates are unlocked, will expand that number.

Indian trade negotiators should heed the demands of trade activists who are warning against the inclusion of an Investment Clause in the EU-India FTA, and particularly the right to bring such cases with respect to alleged IP infringements where the risk of expanded monopolies and reduced access has deadly consequences. 


President Obama's 2014 Budget Won't Get Us to the End of AIDS Global Fund: Support Critical, Bilateral Programs Stymied by Cuts

Despite a commitment made by President Obama on December 1, 2011, his 2014 budget proposal puts funding for the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEFPAR), the foreign assistance program that provides much of the world's access to lifesaving AIDS medication and services, near record lows.

The budget that he presented to Congress continues last year's pre-sequester level for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria in the amount of $1.65 billion--an important step for this life-saving 3-disease international program. However, the budget proposes just over $4 billion for the bilateral US program, PEPFAR--about $70 million less than Congress passed last year (pre-sequestration).

Reaching the President's promise of an AIDS Free Generation and his smart analysis that spending now will save billions in the long run by halting new infections does not match up with this budget. To reach the tipping point in the epidemic we need to expand programs in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Democratic Republic of Congo, and many other countries, but now PEPFAR will not have the funds to do so.

We are grateful that the President's budget includes increases for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, but both of these programs work together. We can't fully fund one with cash from the other and actually make progress towards an AIDS free generation.

A study released in 2011, called HPTN 052, showed that AIDS treatment was 96% effective in preventing the spread of HIV. This led the U.S. to change it's official policy to seek an "AIDS free generation" on November 8, 2011. AIDS activists had hoped that the change in official policy would be illustrated in the budget. President Obama needs to put his money where his mouth is.



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