Patt Morrison for November 15, 2010

The “Robin Hood” tax: should rich American companies be helping poor countries?

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A child washes her face in the rain water pouring off the roof of the makeshift home she lives in as a heavy rainstorm passes over Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Some 1.5 million people are still living in tent camps and less than 4 percent of the rubble created by collapsed buildings has been cleared since the powerfull January 12th earthquake that killed around 200,000 people.

Even as rich countries struggle to overcome a global recession, there remains a huge gap between the wealth of economic giants like the United States, Germany, Japan and China and the most impoverished countries. There is a controversial proposal that’s been around for some time and received further consideration at last week’s G-20 meeting that aims to close that gap: the “Robin Hood” tax, a global financial transaction fee that could raise hundreds of billions of dollars to pay the cost of the global financial crisis and support developing nations. A coalition of 183 organizations from 42 countries issued a plea urging leaders at the G-20 summit in South Korea to adopt the measure, which in theory would impose a .5 or 1% fee on every stock transaction made. Predictably most multinational corporations vigorously oppose the idea, arguing that the unfettered conduct of their business (minus these kinds of fees) is what will ultimately work best to pull many poor countries out of poverty. Is it morally righteous, and economically sound, to a little from the rich to help feed the poor?

Guest:

Michael Mussa, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics; former economist & director of the department of research at the International Monetary Fund from 1991 – 2001

David C. John, a senior research fellow in retirement security and financial markets at The Heritage Foundation


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