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'Robin Hood tax': What is it and why does Occupy want it?

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Andrew Burton/REUTERS

(Read caption) A woman donning a Robin Hood-style hat and mask protests outside the JPMorgan Chase headquarters in support of the Robin Hood tax in New York Tuesday.

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If you're a 99 percenter and think something called a "Robin Hood tax" sounds like a good idea, what better time to don a mask and a pointy-topped hat than on the day JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon gets grilled by Congress?

Mr. Dimon might have become the new symbol of corporate profligacy when his company lost some $2 billion in stock trades, but Occupiers on Tuesday dreamed of socking his Wall Street brethren with a much bigger number. Say, $100 billion.

If Congress were to pass a financial transaction tax – a.k.a. the Robin Hood tax – the "rich" (stock- and bondholders) would lose a small percentage of every trade, which would be given to the "poor" (insert your cash-strapped federal program here). All without adding a cent to personal income taxes.

Its backers – including actor Mark Ruffalo, Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello, and Coldplay’s Chris Martin – appear in a video drawing masks and hats on dollar bills. In front of the JP Morgan Chase headquarters in New York Tuesday, a group of about 40 activists (and one dog) also dressed in Robin Hood attire tried to drum up public support.

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