A group of British charities has teamed up with British film actor Bill Nighy and producer Richard Curtis to campaign for what they call a "new deal between banks and society." They want to put a .05 percent tax on financial transactions between banks that don't involve the public in order to raise money for social services and to fight poverty and climate change.
The run on the British bank Northern Rock in September 2007 marked the beginning of the world banking crisis in Britain. In the end, the British and other governments spent hundreds of millions of dollars bailing out troubled financial institutions.
Now a group of charities and celebrities has launched a campaign to get some of the money back. They call it the Robin Hood Tax after the legendary English folk hero who robbed from the rich to give to the poor. Max Lawsom is with the humanitarian advocacy group Oxfam.
"Basically, trillions of dollars change hands every day between the banks. What we're saying is we could take a tiny slice of that, 0.05 percent, which could raise hundreds of billions of dollars to help for poverty in rich countries, jobs in the U.S., jobs in the UK, but also for poverty in Africa as a result of people dying because of the economic crisis," Lawson said.
That's what real-life bankers are saying, too. Brian Mairs is the spokesman for the British banking association. "It's not something that would work in the real world," he says, "Certainly not at the moment when we still have disputed trade agreements. We're indeed having cross border wars. The idea of there being a single tax which is imposed across the world is simply inconceivable."
Organizers say they want G20 countries to participate, and they're starting an online grassroots movement to pressure world leaders. It's on Twitter and Facebook.
"You've had thousands of people sign up to support the Robin Hood Tax and talk about it on Twitter. Interestingly, they've now started tweeting to their politicians," Jonathan Tench, Oxfam's parliamentary officer said.
Supporters can become "merry men and women" by putting a green mask on their online photo, or printing one to wear.
If online reaction is any indicator, people are largely in favor.
Some British banks are posting record profits and giving large bonuses to executives. Observers say that's causing public outrage against bankers that could boost the campaign.
Campaigners even projected their message on the side of the Bank of England. It was one way they say to show bankers that the writing is on the wall.