Some of Europe's biggest film stars are promoting a tax on Wall Street speculation through a new short film. David Yates, who made the last four Harry Potter movies, is the director, and one of the actors is Andrew Lincoln, the star zombie-fighter from the hit TV show "The Walking Dead."
The video is set 10 years in the future, with Lincoln anchoring a newscast looking back at the impact of the tax. Bankers from Spain, Germany, and France boast about how the tax has generated revenues to help fund public services and combat poverty and climate change.
The video is timed to influence the final phase of negotiations over a tax of less than one percent on each trade of stocks, bonds, and derivatives.
Meanwhile, a British banker (played by Bill Nighy from the comedies The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Love, Actually) becomes increasingly embarrassed over his country's failure to implement the tax and eventually throws a complete hissy fit.
The video is timed to influence the final phase of European negotiations over a tax of just a fraction of one percent on each trade of stocks, bonds, and derivatives. Eleven governments from the European Union have formed a "coalition of the willing" to coordinate such a tax. They include Belgium, Germany, Estonia, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Austria, Portugal, Slovenia, and Slovakia.
The international aid agency Oxfam helped produce the film and is hosting a "million strong" petition that could make the tax the most popular in history. For four years, John Cavanagh's organization, the Institute for Policy Studies, has worked with Oxfam and numerous labor, environmental, public health, and other civil society groups around the world as part of this campaign.
It's been thrilling to watch the progress in Europe, and once people there start raising massive revenue from the tax, it will boost momentum in the United States. While the Obama administration is not yet supportive, there are several congressional proposals that include some form of financial transaction tax.
Many financial experts say the tax would help curb dangerous speculation that has no value for the real economy.
Rep. Keith Ellison has introduced the Inclusive Prosperity Act , which proposes tax rates of 0.5 percent on stock, 0.1 percent on bond, and 0.005 percent on derivative trades, with exemptions for lower-income investors. Sen. Tom Harkin and Rep. Peter DeFazio have proposed a slightly more modest version, which could be expected to raise $350 billion over 10 years.
Beyond the revenue benefits, many financial experts argue that the tax would help curb dangerous short-term speculation that has no value for the real economy. IPS has helped organize a letter signed by more than 50 financial professionals who believe "These taxes will rebalance financial markets away from a short-term trading mentality that has contributed to instability in our financial markets."
We've had the people on our side for some time now. In a January 2013 poll conducted by Hart Research, 62 percent of Americans approved of a "small tax on all stock/bond/market trades." Having major cultural figures join the fight will greatly increase our chances of overcoming opposition from Wall Street.