Nursing a grudge

Boston Herald Editorial, September 6, 2011

Silly us, we assumed a labor union that represents nurses was in the business of negotiating fair pay and decent working conditions for those who do the difficult work of caring for the sick. We didn’t realize that federal tax policy and securities regulation were part of its portfolio.

But there was the Massachusetts Nurses Association last week in Worcester and in Boston - joining their counterparts in 21 other states, the State House News Service reported - to demand that US Senator Scott Brown support a tax on stock trades, debt purchases and a series of other financial transactions. A .5 percent tax on all manner of securities transactions will raise billions in revenue, they say, and (we’ve yet to figure this one out) create jobs.

“We’re here because Wall Street got bailed out, and Main Street was left out,” MNA president Donna Kelly-Williams said outside Brown’s office. Another union leader added that “bankers and Wall Street scoundrels have left our economy in ruins.”

In other words, what the transaction tax is really about is payback.

Yes, supporters of this kind of tax - a version of which was proposed in Congress in 2009 and went nowhere - have said that in addition to raising revenue it would reduce speculative financial activity. They argue that the average investor won’t feel the pain - that it would fall on the backs of banks and investment houses that rely on high-frequency trading programs.

But it wouldn’t be limited to those trades, of course, it would also apply to, say, everyday mergers and acquisitions. The kind of deals that enable companies to grow and, you know, actually create jobs. They would immediately become more costly, putting the MNA in the position of trying to legislate a slowdown in the already sluggish economy. And how does that make sense?

As part of its outreach on this issue the MNA plans to organize food drives and set up soup kitchens to “help those harmed by Wall Street’s greed,” Kelly-Williams told the News Service.

At least that has a marginal connection to public health.

© Copyright by the Boston Herald and Herald Media.

Nursing a Concern

Ann Marie McDonagh, RN, Canton, Boston Herald, September 8, 2011

Your readers need to know the profession of nursing encompasses so much more than “the difficult work of caring for the sick.” Nurses also have a responsibility to ensure that members of our society have access to basic necessities such as living wages, adequate housing, health care, nutritious food, clean water and robust public facilities. Unfortunately, the numbers of individuals and families in our country losing access to these vital commodities are rapidly growing. This constitutes a public health crisis (“Nursing a grudge,” September 6).

In my practice as a staff nurse in a downtown Boston teaching hospital, I am seeing the effects of this crisis every day. More and more patients are coming through our doors sicker and sicker by the day. A nurses’ union must do so much more than just negotiate fair pay and decent working conditions. It must use its power to promote the overall well-being of its members and the public they care for.

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A Tax to Expand

Robert Pollin, Professor of Economics, UMass-Amherst, Boston Herald, September 12, 2011

Your editorial, “Nursing a grudge” (September 6), is misinformed about the economic issues involved in establishing a tax on all financial transactions - a “Wall Street tax” - as well as being demeaning of the important efforts of the Massachusetts Nurses Association.

The Wall Street tax is equivalent to a sales tax. Financiers pay no tax when they trade securities. Most of the money from this tax would come from wealthy people involved in financial market trading. The tax supported by the MNA would raise nationally $150 billion or more to support our teachers, police officers, firefighters and, yes, nurses, rather than seeing their wages cut and jobs lost through austerity programs. Countries throughout the world operate with the equivalent of Wall Street taxes. The nurses are correct that the US economy would operate on a more stable and equitable foundation through implementing this tax.

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