A closed-door meeting of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) was held on January 16, 2003, in Washington, D.C. to consider how to "reform" what is called "the global financial architecture" in order "to stabilize the world economy, reduce poverty and inequality, uphold fundamental rights, and protect the environment."
This is socialist doubletalk for imposing a global tax on America. Their aim is to raid American pensions, savings accounts, IRAs and Mutual Funds.
These NGOs, which call themselves the "New Rules for Global Finance Coalition," meet on a regular basis to plan implementation of the Tobin tax, named after the late Yale University economist James Tobin. They have now released a book, "Debating the Tobin Tax," based on the conference.
Their target is the over $1 trillion a day being exchanged as currencies are traded and investments are made here and abroad. Revenues from even a small Tobin tax have been estimated in the billions or trillions of dollars a year.
Ruthanne Cecil of the Tobin Tax Initiative-USA warned participants at the Washington conference to avoid use of the phrase "global tax" in pushing the proposal. It must have occurred to her that many Americans have enough of an understanding of history to know that America was born in a tax revolt and they might therefore take offense at another King George-style global initiative.
NGOs, who like to think of themselves as "the conscience of the world," should not be underestimated. They have repeatedly demonstrated their power on the global stage. Working with and through sympathetic governments and the United Nations, NGOs helped bring into being the International Criminal Court, a U.N.-backed body that could imprison Americans in foreign jails without constitutional protections.
NGOs were behind a U.N. treaty to outlaw land mines, have worked tirelessly against the death penalty, and claim some success in getting the world to adopt "debt relief" for the Third World by transferring more of our wealth - through foreign aid - to bankrupt regimes.
They would also like to see a "global parliament" - a world government - and a world army to serve U.N. - not U.S. -- interests. NGOs tend to be successful because they claim to be acting on behalf of the world's poor, promoting justice and democracy, and saving lives.
But their key ally in the global tax battle is billionaire George Soros, who made his fortune by exchanging and speculating on foreign currencies - the very activities to be covered by the Tobin tax -- and is now spending millions of dollars to defeat President Bush and elect Democrats this fall.
Soros has declared that the Tobin tax is a "valid suggestion" for raising international revenue and that opposition to implementing the tax can be overcome.
Thomas Palley, the director of the Globalization Reform Project at Soros' Open Society Institute, was a featured speaker at the January 16 event. Palley, former AFL-CIO assistant director of public policy, wrote an article for the May-June 2001 issue of Challenge magazine that made "the Case for an International Currency Transactions Tax."
The meeting, attended by this reporter, was underwritten by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and the German-based Boell Foundation. It was held at the Carnegie Conference Center in Washington, D.C
NGOs also receive substantial funding from institutions such as the Ford Foundation, which now has assets of over $14 billion, and the Rockefeller Foundation, with an endowment of $3.1 billion.
Another key NGO ally is U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who owes his career to the Ford Foundation, having received a Ford Foundation fellowship to come to the U.S. and study at Macalester College in Minnesota as a young man. He spent precious little time in his native Ghana and shows no interest in going home.
At a November 2001 event to receive an award from the Institute for International Education, Annan was introduced by Susan Berresford, President of the Ford Foundation, who said that recipients of foundation fellowships are now playing "pivotal roles in major organizations in and outside of government." Ford is grooming the international elite, many of whom come from NGOs and attend U.N. conferences and influence foreign governments.
The key members of the "New Rules" coalition run the gamut from typical liberal-left groups to religious-oriented organizations. Their names and affiliations are: Ira Arlook (New Economy Communications), Jamie Baker (Oxfam America), Peter Bakvis (International Confederation of Free Trade Unions), Ariel Buira (G-24 Secretariat), Aldo Caliari (Center of Concern), Randall Dodd (Financial Policy Forum), Navroz Dubash (World Resources Institute), Seamus Finn (Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate), Alex Greenbaum (New America Foundation), Aaron Goldzimer (Environmental Defense), Jo Marie Griesgraber (Oxfam America), Bernhard Gunter (consultant), Kelly Hicks (U.S. Catholic Conference), Didier Jacobs (Oxfam America), John Langmore (International Labor Organization Liaison to the U.N.), Tom Palley (Open Society Institute), Liane Schalatek (Heinrich Boell Foundation), Frank Schroeder (Friedrich Ebert Foundation), John Sewell (Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars), Paul Tennassee (National Alliance of Postal and Federal Employees), Jim Weaver (American University), Emira Woods (Interaction), and Chuck Woolery (United Nations Council of Organizations, Washington D.C.)
What drives their agenda is a Marxist view that the U.S. is exploiting the people and natural resources of the world. As a result, special "rights" and even financial compensation must be awarded to these "victims." According to this view, international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and even the U.N. must be restructured and provided with new financial resources to supervise and manage the redistribution of the world's wealth. The United States, being the leading capitalist state, has to pay the largest price.
Their attitude was expressed by Paul Tennassee when he told an NGO forum in Monterrey, Mexico, that Christopher Columbus "invaded, destroyed and pillaged" the hemisphere and that a global tax was necessary to pay for the damage.
One powerful NGO, the Association for the Taxation of Financial Transactions for the Aid of Citizens (ATTAC), was created at a meeting in Paris on December 11-12, 1998 and claims 80,000 members worldwide and an international network of independent national and local groups in 33 countries.
The new Tobin tax book includes a contribution from Bruno Jetin, a representative of the French ATTAC affiliate. Jetin spoke to the gathering in Washington and acknowledged in private conversation that his group works hand-in-glove with the French Communist Party and the "Socialist parties on the Left."
Jetin said ATTAC doesn't have a formal U.S. affiliate but that his group works with Dean Baker of the Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR), which reports that it receives 85 percent of its funds from the Ford Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Baker stated at the forum that proposals for a global tax might gather support in the U.S. if politicians said that the proceeds would go for health care, education and other such matters.
A follow-up "Tobin Tax Meeting for Organizers & NGOs" was held at the headquarters of Baker's CEPR. Baker's Web site features a call by "world economists" for a global Tobin tax and his presentation at the Washington conference was on how the collection of Tobin taxes could be enforced.
Such meetings and conferences are held around the world. Robin Round of the Canada-based NGO known as the Halifax Initiative told a Montreal NGO conference that "one of the major obstacles" to the adoption of the Tobin tax is "opposition in the U.S." but that the proposal is still "feasible." She emphasized that, "It is easy to track these [financial] transactions and it is easy to tax them" because they go through U.S. dollars and U.S. banks.
A variation of the Tobin tax proposal was offered by Democratic Senator Jeff Bingaman at the request of Democratic Senate leader Tom Daschle in 1996. Entitled, "Scrambling to Pay the Bills: Building Allies for America's Working Families," the Bingaman report called for a securities transfer excise tax (STET) that would extend to transactions by individuals, corporations, and tax-exempt pension funds and would apply to stocks, bonds, options, futures, swaps of currency, interest rates and other assets.
By his calculations, the tax could generate anywhere from $27 billion to $62 billion a year that the federal government would initially spend on education, work force training and other nice-sounding liberal programs. He said its implementation would have to be coordinated with other countries, meaning that it would be the beginning of the Tobin tax.
A Congressional resolution in favor of the Tobin tax was titled, "Taxing Cross-border Currency Transactions to Deter Excessive Speculation," (H.Con.Res.301), and was introduced on April 11, 2000, by Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and the late Senator Paul Wellstone (D-MN).
At the U.N., a panel created by Secretary-General Kofi Annan -- and including Clinton's former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin -- recommended an international tax to generate more foreign aid money and specifically mentioned the Tobin tax as a possibility. But it preferred a global tax on oil and gas "as a way of combating global warming."
A German U.N. official, Dr. Inge Kaul of the U.N. Development Program (UNDP), has been directing the push for a global tax. An official UNDP report, "Global Public Goods Financing: New Tools for New Challenges," urges an international tax to finance U.N. environmental programs, "peacekeeping" operations, and to "provide transfers to poor countries" from the U.S. It also recommends an "international authority" to collect the tax.
Joseph E. Stiglitz, a cabinet member in the Clinton Administration and chairman of the Council on Economic Advisers, has added his voice to this debate, noting that the "protests at meetings of global financial leaders in Seattle, Prague, Washington, and Genoa…" have put pressure on the international community for more global action to solve the world's problems. In his book, Globalization and Its Discontents, Stiglitz says that the Tobin Tax has attracted "a great deal of attention" in Europe as a possible solution and that "There is now a large body of literature analyzing the tax theoretically and empirically." He cites possible problems in implementing such a global tax and suggests further study is needed to make it into a reality. But the trend is clearly in favor of a global tax and a global IRS.
King George would be proud.
But NGOs don't want to wait for more studies. In a March 2002 report entitled "Global Taxes for Global Priorities," a powerful U.N.-backed NGO, the Global Policy Forum, declared:
"The time for concerted action has come…Like-minded governments and citizen groups must advance together towards the goal of global taxes. The U.N. has the authority and capacity to address this agenda, and so to pave the way for a just and sustainable global future. "As Stiglitz suggested, the NGO street protests are bringing about this development. The BBC has noted that, "The Tobin tax has become one of the key demands of many anti-globalization protesters."
It is a short step from stealing property to destroying it, all in the name of "reforming" capitalism. And the FBI has gotten alarmed, noting "millions of dollars in damage from fires set during the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle" and the discovery of molotov cocktails that were prepared for an IMF meeting in Washington, D.C. The AFL-CIO provides foot soldiers for many of the protests.
These protests, however, are designed not to dismantle the international institutions but to strengthen and expand them. In the name of assisting the Third World and the "oppressed," the protests provide an excuse for the WTO, World Bank, IMF and even the United Nations to exercise more control over the global economy and drain even more money from the U.S.
They think they have the high ground. Speaking at that NGO conference in Montreal, Robert Jasmine of ATTAC in Canada endorsed the Tobin tax as inevitable, explaining that, "We are the rich of the world" and "Do we want to share that wealth or not?" This is the NGO version of "Stick 'em up."
Robin Round, at the same conference, put it somewhat differently, noting that NGOs "are encouraged by the prospect of the revenue generated by the tax." It is a battle for money and power - our money so they can have power.
At the Monterrey NGO conference, Lene Schumager of the World Federation of U.N. Associations took the proposal one step further, advocating that Tobin taxes be used to fund the NGOs themselves.
It's a racket. But most Americans are in the dark because the major media have failed to expose the activities or even existence of the global tax lobby. (30)