By JARED NAKAWATASE, RN
Nurses treat the victims of the financial meltdown and recession every day. These patients stream into our hospitals, psych units and jails.
We see increases in stress-induced heart ailments in young people, hypertension, pancreatic and gut disorders such as colitis. Mental illnesses and anxiety disorders have been linked to a lack of access to health care, unemployment, poverty and homelessness. Coincidentally, hypertension and its related diseases account for 34 percent of deaths in Asian Pacific Islanders and is a leading cause of mortality.
The Associated Press recently reported a new study by a leading children’s hospital: “An increase in child abuse, mostly in infants, is linked to the recent recession.” Sixty-five percent more cases of abusive head trauma were recorded in the years following the recession than before it. As a pediatric nurse in a large metropolitan hospital I am a witness to this sad reality of the Great Recession.
It is too frustrating to only apply band-aids for years without dealing with the underlying disease.
Our professional duty as nurses is to be the patient’s advocate. We not only heal our patients in hospitals but we want to prevent them from winding up there in the first place, and a bad economy is also bad for public health. Fixing that economy will prevent more children from winding up as my patients.
The disease crippling America now is the extreme disparity between the haves and have-nots. Income inequality is the worst in 52 years, where only 1 percent of the population owns 42 percent of all wealth. The U.S. ranks 65th in equality, worse than Cameroon and Bangladesh, according to the CIA.
Prevention and justice are the reasons why my union, National Nurses United, initiated the Tax Wall Street to Heal Main Street campaign kicked off by a thousand-nurse march on Wall Street in June 2011.
In the past three weeks thousands of young people, union members, community groups, and retirees of all colors have participated in the Wall Street occupations in NYC, Los Angeles, San Francisco, D.C., Boston, and cities around the world.
People are beginning to realize that politicians elected by the people are being bought by Wall Street. Unless the Wall Street tycoons, who really “own” the politicians, are put in check, they will continue to drive our country into the ground. It is obscene that 57 percent of corporations either paid no or little taxes, when so many working people and small businesses find themselves in desperation.
This concentration of power among the financial elites has created a situation where politicians’ agenda has been to chip away at our critical social safety net programs and target Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid. They try to blame public employee pensions, teachers, nurses, unions, immigrants or Muslims for the economic crisis. To the contrary, a recent Gallup poll concluded that 70 percent of Americans support a tax on the rich to pay their fair share, create jobs, restore education, and stop foreclosures.
That is why I support a financial transaction tax on Wall Street speculators. It is only one among many “medicines” to begin the road to recovery. Even a modest amount of .05 percent for their financial transactions will produce about $350 billion a year for jobs, schools, and health care, and fix our crumbling infrastructure.
This is a very modest reparation from the financial tycoons who got bailed out with $700 billion of our tax dollars with no strings attached. This tax will not affect our 401(k), ATM transactions or credit purchases. It will only impact the high rollers with strict rules against passing the cost on to consumers like us. Such a tax once existed in the U.S. from 1914 to 1966 and is now being seriously considered for adoption by the G20 nations of the European Union.
When people rob a bank they go to jail, but when bankers robbed us they received bailouts because they were “too big to fail.” It’s time all of us demanded that Wall Street and big corporations pay their fair share. It’s high time that we stop fighting amongst ourselves about what programs or services to cut and focus on the real root of the problem and demand our fair share of the $4 trillion of wealth that Wall Street is sitting on.
We must protect our future. The overwhelming majority of Americans support a more equal and just society, where the wealth of our nation is not hoarded by the 1 percent. It’s time for the 99 percent to be heard. It is time for all Asian Pacific Islanders to join and express our outrage at those who created the current economic disaster and participate in Occupy L.A. to make Wall Street pay for the damages to Main Street.
Jared Nakawatase is a registered nurse based in Long Beach. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.