From its inception, the campaign for a financial transactions tax (FTT, or Robin Hood Tax) has involved US advocates. Health campaigners, economic progressives and trade unions – pretty much the same coalition as in Europe. But where the campaign in Europe has differed has been support from Governments across the political spectrum. In the US, there have been stalwart supporters in Congress, and an innovative activist insurgency, but the White House has been mostly silent or hostile.
So we thought it would be worthwhile to take the US campaign up a notch by getting EU Tax Commissioner Algirdas Semeta to cross the Atlantic to tell them about Europe’s 11-country plans for an FTT, and encourage them to give it serious consideration. On Monday and Tuesday, he’ll be inside the Beltway, talking to Senators, Representatives, the administration and others.
I’m here with Labour’s Shadow Secretary to the Treasury, Chris Leslie MP, who’s fulfilling Ed Balls’ promise to Congress last year to work with colleagues in Washington to press the case for a more international FTT. On Monday lunchtime we’ll be joining Commissioner Semeta at the Center for American Progress, who are giving him his only public platform, jointly with the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. Chris Leslie will be one of three respondents, the others being Cornell Professor of Corporate and Business Law Lynn Stout, and CAP Vice President Michael Ettlinger.
The debate in the US seems to have hit a new level now that President Obama’s new administration is settling down. Congressional support for an FTT is growing as the budget debate sharpens, and the anti-FTT deadweight of departing Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner leaves the stage. This week, new Congressional bills will be introduced promoting a US FTT, spearheaded by Sen Harkin and Rep deFazio as well as a more radical proposal from Rep Ellison.
The New York Times has returned to the attack this past week, and the economically right-wing (but sometimes socially liberal) Cato Institute has announced a counter-attack for next month.
It’s always a sign that a campaign is getting somewhere when the opposition starts taking you seriously.