AIDS Issues Update Blog

Dispatches from the fight against homelessness and AIDS


Posted by Tim Murphy , September 20, 2013


Robin Hood Tax supporters Wednesday said it’d raise $350 billion a year for big needs like healthcare, public transpo and ending AIDS.

Wednesday afternoon in New York City, on the second anniversary of Occupy Wall St., about 2,500 supporters of a proposed Robin Hood Tax gathered at the U.N., whose General Assembly had just begun their annual meeting on global priorities. They then marched to select corporate targets. Their goal? To build support for a .5 percent tax on high-speed financial transactions that, they say, would raise $350 billion a year for major human needs including funding the end of domestic and global HIV/AIDS, hospitals, public transportation and college debt relief.

A similar tax was passed in the Eurozone recently and will go into effect next year. American companies doing business in the Eurozone will have to pay the tax.

From the U.N., protesters—many wearing the pointy Robin Hood cap that has become the symbol for the movement, and some carrying giant fake boulders that symbolized the crushing debt of factors like AIDS, healthcare and college debt—marched to J.P. Morgan Chase, the largest U.S. bank, which taxpayers paid $12 billion to bail out. From there, they marched to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, to call for an end to cuts to public transportation that working people rely on, and finally to a rally in Bryant Park.

To wrap up the action, the African-American a cappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock performed some of their songs. “There is no way in the world that you can have any kind of movement without people raising their voices,” they told the crowd. “Just don’t give up. Just don’t give up.”

HIV/AIDS groups taking part in the rally included Housing Works, National Nurses United, the country’s largest union and advocacy group for nurses, and Transit Workers Union Local 100.

In a planned civil disobedience, 16 protesters were arrested for blocking traffic while holding a giant sign reading, “End AIDS With a Robin Hood Tax.” They included State Senator Brad Hoylman, Housing Works president and CEO Charles King and Treatment Action Group executive director Mark Harrington.

According to a poll by the environmental group Friends of the Earth, two thirds of Americans favor this tax. It is supported by Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and President Reagan’s former budget director. In Congress, it exists as a bill, the Inclusive Prosperity Act, introduced this year by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN). It has 17 cosponsors. The website gives it a 0 percent chance of being enacted.

According to HealthGAP’s Jennifer Flynn, that’s no reason not to keep building a broad national consensus in favor of the tax. “When and if the next financial crisis hits, people will look around at solutions, and if enough people have signed on to this bill, it’ll be a viable option.” She noted that no New York State reps in D.C. have signed on to it, even though many of them are progressive. “They’re all terrified of Wall St.,” she said. “We have to make them terrified of us.” She urged all New Yorkers to call their reps urging them to sign on to the bill, which is H.R. 1579.

There will be another Robin Hood Tax rally in D.C. on October 30. Email Flynn at or go to for more info. Interesting fact: According to at least one account, Obama was all for a Robin Hood Tax until Larry Summers talked him out of it. Larry! Aaargh!

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