The Robin Hood Tax campaign launched to some fanfare this week. The idea is to impose a tiny tax (no higher than .1%) on certain financial transactions. This is an attempt to access some of that unearned wealth created on Wall Street that continues to sit on the sidelines of the economy nestled in the wallets of the “1%.”
Such a tiny tax doesn’t seem harsh at all. The campaign estimates the tax could raise hundreds of billions of dollars each year.
It sounds like a good idea, but they have a serious branding problem. Putting the “Robin Hood” label on this idea will kill it. I can hear the right-wingers now: “See, I told you, taxing is theft. They admit it. Robin Hood is famous for stealing from the rich to give to the poor. Taxing is theft!”
Instead it should be called the “Wall Street Sales Tax.” Most of us pay sales tax when we buy something. There should be a sales tax when these financial products are purchased. The campaign’s leader even adopts this line of reasoning here: ” It is only fair that financial transactions incur a sales tax – just as the rest of us pay – and put some Wall Street resources back into Main Street.”
The only useful aspect of the “Robin Hood” label is that it is a colorful and easily understood story with easily identifiably images. This is great for being a shiny object that gets media attention so they can take videos of protesters dressing up their dogs in little green outfits with pointy hats.
Having no idea about the extent of DeMoro’s tax policy expertise, I will say having the nurses’ union lead the campaign is another bad idea given the unfortunate unpopularity of unions lately. It makes it harder to build a large, diverse coalition that this idea deserves.