Established in May 2016, Take On Wall Street (TOWS) is an anti-capitalist coalition of left-wing groups that favor large-scale wealth redistribution and high rates of taxation designed to fund an ever-expanding federal government and welfare state. Foremost in TOWS's cross hairs are “Wall Street and the big banks,” which the coalition says “are devouring this country’s wealth” by “feasting on our jobs, our benefits and our pensions.” When “wallets on Wall Street bulge,” adds TOWS, “working class wages stagnate,” “the cost of a college education skyrockets,” and “the pensions you worked so hard to earn are gutted while wealthy special interests push massive trade deals written by and for the profit of multi-national corporations.”
Another leading concern of TOWS is the notion that America's “corrupt campaign finance system” renders “the voices of the billionaire class ... the only voices that are heard in our democracy.” Moreover, TOWS complains about state-level “anti-worker legislation” that, for example, restricts minimum-wage levels, imposes new limits on unemployment benefits, sets stricter guidelines regarding overtime pay and family leave, offers workers the right to decide whether or not to join a union, or bars employers and unions from negotiating contracts that require private-sector workers to pay labor fees or dues.
To address the foregoing matters, TOWS has identified its five major agenda priorities as follows:
1) End Too-Big-Too-Fail: TOWS contends that large, “too-big-to-fail” banks invariably “put the economy in jeopardy” and “have only gotten bigger since the Great Recession” that began in 2008. In response to this problem, the coalition calls for the enactment of a “21st Century Glass-Steagall Act” modeled after the 1933 Act that bore the same name and “separated Wall Street risky investment banking from everyday commercial banking, like taking deposits and making loans.” The re-implementation of such a measure, says TOWS, would also “ban commercial banks from engaging in new Wall Street businesses like derivatives dealing and securitization.”
2) Pass The Wall Street Speculation Tax: Proposing an “Inclusive Prosperity Act” to levy taxes on Wall Street transactions such as sales of stocks, bonds, and derivatives, TOWS claims that such a move would “help stop wasteful and risky high-frequency trading” while raising “hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade”—money that could be spent on “all kinds of social problems, ranging from education to infrastructure.”
3) Get Big Money Out of Politics: By TOWS's telling, “big money in the political system,” which is evident when “corporations and the super-rich spend billions each year to influence elections and shape legislation,” has “a corrosive effect on our democracy” because “if candidates are only talking to those funding their campaigns, they’re not listening to the American people.” To solve this problem, TOWS proposes the passage of “common sense legislation” that “puts reasonable limits on political spending” and “increases the power of small contributions that regular Americans can afford to give,” so that “everyone [can] have an equal voice in our political system.” Toward this end, the coalition advocates the establishment of a government-administered “Freedom from Influence Fund” that would match donors' small-dollar contributions ($150 or less per election), “provided the candidate receiving the contribution forgoes big money special interests and focuses on earning broad based support from small-dollar donors.”
4) Make Fund Managers Pay Their Fair Share: TOWS calls for the elimination of a tax-law “loophole” that “allows hedge fund and private equity fund managers to claim part of what is really salary income as capital gains instead, and as a result pay about 20% in taxes instead of the 39.6% they otherwise should.” This tax-evasion by the wealthy, says TOWS, “costs us at least $1.5 billion per year—real money that can be used to help families devastated by the recession that resulted from risky gambling and wrongdoing on Wall Street.”
5) End Tax Exemption For Huge CEO Bonuses: TOWS likewise condemns corporations for exploiting the fact that under current law, tax-deductible executive salaries are capped at $1 million while performance-based bonuses are not. Specifically, the coalition objects to the fact that companies are permitted to “give their CEOs multimillion-dollar bonuses and claim those bonuses are performance-based—so the company doesn’t have to pay taxes on them.” This, says TOWS, results in “inflated payments to a few top executives” and “increases the CEO-to-worker pay gap.” The closure of this “loophole” would not only serve as “a major step towards encouraging more modest executive pay,” TOWS assures, but would also raise “as much as $50 billion over the next decade that could allow all students to refinance their student loans, helping end the cycle of student debt.”
More than 20 progressive organizations are currently part of the TOWS coalition. Among these are the AFL-CIO, the Communications Workers of America, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), MoveOn.org, the Working Families Party, and The Nation. On May 24, 2016, TOWS's member groups formally announced the launch of their new alliance at an event that featured a speech by Democratic U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren. There, TOWS articulated its plan to hold a series of direct actions and public campaigns throughout the upcoming election season, with a heavy focus on the importance of constantly imposing new financial regulations on all manner of industries.
Other notable supporters of TOWS include Congressional Representatives Keith Ellison and Nydia Velazquez, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, AFT president Randi Weingarten, and U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin.