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A Tax on Wall Street Trading Is the Best Solution to Income Inequality
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In the years since the 2008 economic crisis, financial transactions taxes (FTTs) have gone from a fringe idea to a policy that is in mainstream policy debates. They are seen as a way to both raise large amounts of money and to slow the pace of churning in financial markets. For this reason, most progressive Democrats have come out in support, and even the Clinton campaign provided a hat-tip to some form of taxation on high frequency trading.

This is a welcome change from where things stood before the crisis, when the only people supporting FTTs were the far left of the party. As a long-time proponent of an FTT, I welcome this change, but even many of the proponents of FTTs don’t realize the full benefits of such a tax.

To get some bearing, it is first worth recognizing how much money is potentially at stake. The Joint Tax Committee projected that a modest tax of 0.03 percent on all trades of stocks, bonds, and derivative instruments, along the lines of a proposal by Representative Peter DeFazio, would raise more than $400 billion over the course of a decade. This is roughly equal to 0.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP. This would be enough money to cover 60 percent of the cost of the food stamp program.There have been proposals for larger FTTs. The Tax Policy Center of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution analyzed an FTT with a varying rate structure on stocks, bonds, and derivative instruments. They calculated that the maximum revenue would be achieved with a rate on stocks of 0.34 percent, with lower tax rates on other financial instruments. This tax would raise more than $800 billion, or 0.4 percent of GDP, over the course of a decade.

Bernie Sanders and Keith Ellison have sponsored bills for a 0.5 percent scaled tax on stocks and other financial instruments. The Congressional Progressive Caucus in its “Better Off Budget” has adopted this tax. Their own estimates put the take from the tax considerably higher than the Tax Policy Center numbers.

Without trying to adjudicate between these estimates, it is clear that there is potentially a large amount of money at stake with an FTT. If we think that the government will want to tax away more money to fund infrastructure, healthcare, and other areas of public spending, FTTs seem like promising way to go. In addition, the idea of reducing some of the short-term trading in financial markets is attractive. The evidence on whether reductions in trading volume can reduce the likelihood of bubbles and crashes is not conclusive, but it seems worth a shot.

However, there is another important aspect of an FTT that has gotten much less attention. The burden of an FTT is borne pretty much in full by the financial sector. The basic story is that trading volume can be expected to decline roughly in proportion to the percentage increase in trading costs. This means that if a tax increases the cost of trading by 40 percent, then can expect trading volume to decline by roughly 40 percent.

This is a very important point. In the case of most items we buy, say food or housing, we value the item itself, so that if we had less food or housing because a tax raised the price, we would feel some loss. That is not the case with trading financial assets. At the end of the day, we don’t care how much we traded, we care what happened to the value of our assets after trading. (Let’s ignore the possibility that some people see trading like gambling and enjoy the process itself.) If we trade less because of a tax, it doesn’t matter to the average consumer, unless it reduces the value of our assets.

In the case where trading volume falls in proportion to the increase in the cost per trade, there would be little change in the total amount spent on trading. If we pay 40 percent more on each trade, but carry through 40 percent fewer trades, the total amount spent on trading would not rise. (Total trading costs actually fall somewhat in this example, but we can ignore that point.)

The issue then is whether our portfolios will be smaller as a result of fewer trades. That seems unlikely. Trading is mostly a zero sum game. If you end up selling your stock at a high price, then some sucker paid too much for it and will incur a loss. On average, there is a loser for every winner, meaning that the trading costs are simply a waste.

There is a story that trading makes the market more efficient, better allocating capital to its best uses. There clearly is something to this story, if there was no market in which to sell Apple stock, no one would ever buy its shares in the first place. This would mean that Apple and other companies would not be able to use the stock market to raise capital.

However we almost certainly reached the point where the markets were deep enough to efficiently allocate capital long ago. Trading volumes have more than doubled in the last two decades and are an order of magnitude larger than they were in the seventies. Someone would be hard pressed to argue that capital was better allocated in the housing bubble years than fifteen or twenty years earlier when volume might have been less than half of its current level.

This means that the only losers from an FTT are the people who earn their money from doing the trades, not the pension funds or middle income people with 401(k)s. In effect, an FTT will allow the financial sector to serve its function of allocating capital from savers to investors more efficiently. If an FTT raises $40 billion a year, then it will reduce the amount of annual revenue of the financial sector by roughly $40 billion. If the tax revenue is $80 billion, then the financial sector will be roughly $80 billion smaller.

However, the really great benefit from these savings is that they will come out of the pockets of many of the richest people in the country: Wall Street traders and hedge fund partners. An FTT will radically reduce the income of a group of people who stand at the very top of the income ladder. By reducing the opportunities to get rich through trading, we will force many of these high flyers to look for jobs in designing software, biotech, or other areas in which their skills may still command a premium, even if they don’t provide the millions they could expect on Wall Street.

And, the increased flow of people into these other high-paying professions will put downward pressure on the pay there as well. In effect, we will be reducing the number of very high paying positions in the economy, meaning that these positions will on average pay less as a result. We can think of an FTT as the equivalent of job-killing robots for the very high paid crew.

This is a great example of a clearly defined policy that will directly reverse some of the upward redistribution of income over the last four decades. Of course FTTs still face an enormous uphill battle before they could be implemented. As with other policies that would reverse the upward redistribution the problem is not the difficulty of designing the policy, the problem is the power of the rich people who don’t want a fairer and more efficient economy.

This article originally appeared in The Hill.

Dean Baker is a macroeconomist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. He previously worked as a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute and an assistant professor at Bucknell University.

(Republished from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Economics • Tags: Inequality, Tobin Tax, Wall Street 
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  1. Traders? The computers are doing the trading, billions of them every day from each house. A penny here, a penny there..

  2. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    FTT’s are all very egalitarian and cute, but what actually happened when such taxes were imposed (e.g. in Sweden and in Brazil) is that markets migrated offshore (to London and New York, respectively). When this inane idea is attempted again, blockchain technology should make it a lot easier to circumvent.

    The author wants not only to soak the rich, but to screw the talented as well (i.e., “put downward pressure on pay there as well…”). Alas… [pours stiff drink]

  3. Noah Way says:

    Rubbish. The only way to address income inequality / wealth distribution is to tax wealth itself. Billionaires should not exist. Leveling the economic playing field is the only way to achieve equality. The guy who pumps your cesspool is far more critical to functioning society than the parasite who skims off a fee on financial transactions.

  4. MarkinLA says:

    When you have taxes so high that you can no longer tax income, property, cigarettes or booze to pay for medical care for illegal aliens and other welfare you have to tax something that still moves.

  5. anon • Disclaimer says:

    95% of day traders lose money. Very few get rich from it. So this idea that we are “soaking the rich” here with such a proposed tax is quite false.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
    , @Bill
  6. Wally says:

    And how long would “a modest tax of 0.03 percent” remain a modest tax of 0.03 percent?
    Recall how “modest” federal income tax was initially.

    • Replies: @animalogic
  7. Medvedev says:
    @Noah Way

    Billionaires should not exist. Leveling the economic playing field is the only way to achieve equality. The guy who pumps your cesspool is far more critical to functioning society than the parasite who skims off a fee on financial transactions.

    Communists have had the same thoughts. Look how well it turned out for USSR, communist China under Mao, Cambodia, Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela.

    Whenever communists tried to redistribute the wealth, so everyone is equal, everyone ended up being equally poor. With the exception for a ruling clique.

  8. @Noah Way

    Yes, and the only way to actually level the playing field is to Return to Parity! As is the law, 7 USC Sec 602. It worked as demonstrated with World War II and post war boom.

    Parity means pay those who produce the food that keeps us alive at a levels that allows the farmers to then purchase from manufacturing and service sectors which are offshoots of agricultural bounty that needs to be adequately monetized.

    Underpay farmers and the entire economy loses out in ‘earned income’ that is the basis for rest of the economy to either thrive or starve on. When it thrives you have a natural democratization of wealth based upon the natural distribution of various bioregions that produce different foods, all which feeds capital spent upon goods and services, bought from profit from tending the soil and not having to pay, or not be able to afford to pay, loans and the attendent interest.

    The interests whose interests is interest want to sell interest and parity opposes such an artificial tax on everyone, it merely says “pay the farmer his due”

    If you have to borrow money to buy seed for next season, then last season was not too good….and such is the problem….that feeds the corporations taking over agriculture towards monoculture hell and slavery.

    American farmers are only getting 34 % of Parity. No one could take such a cut and survive.

    Note this chart and letter to the President.

    • Replies: @Linda Green
    , @bluedog
  9. @Wally

    Sure: but follow that logic & there would be NO taxes. No doubt some would celebrate no taxes, but (although theoretically doable [?] ) it might pose a few … practical difficulties.

    • Replies: @Wally
    , @athEIst
  10. @Medvedev

    Nice hyperbole. There’s a difference between trying to reduce the number of billionaires & greater more income inequality and going full scale communist. But hey, I’m sure your masters on Wall St appreciate your effort.

    • Replies: @Wally
    , @Z-man
  11. @Medvedev

    Oh come one. It has been 25 years after the fall of the Soviet Union. Now what? All is so good in Russia? Everybody is wealthy and happy? 90% is owed by 10%. Everything that was good was lost and now come only ugly unless of course the whole thing was about sausage varieties in stores at the expense of many much more important things for common folk. Like guaranteed employment, place to live which was free of debt, free and good quality medicine, education at all levels,m kindergartens of such quality unknown in the west, dignified retirement, paid annual one month vacations and lot more good things that are gone. Having everything I described already says people were not as poor as you are trying to depict in USSR. To have all what I described in the West you must be middle class folk. Regarding China, China failed to build anything close to USSR.

    • Agree: Stephen R. Diamond
  12. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Exactly. The few who make real money are already rich from other operations and have a lot of cash to invest and risk losing.

    This article is naive. Tax trading more and less retail investors will be going into it, but the rich will always find ways to pay less taxes. Why do you think the rich are so much into “philanthropy”.

    Now there may be a way to do curb Wall Street and it is arguably necessary, but this does not seem the best way.

  13. LauraMR says:

    The tax code needs to be rewritten from scratch. Adding a trade tax to this mess is not a solution of any kind. Government spending is simply out of control. Politicians in power must be held accountable for the mess they leave behind after they leave office. I want to see that pledge and prison sentences for those violating it before I agree to any new tax, no matter on what.

    • Replies: @Bill
  14. Yak-15 says:

    This idea is is foolish

    What would be the first order effects of such a tax be?

    1. Changes in behavior. Most of the trading community would substantially reduce the amount of money they trade. Taxes on trading would likely knock 95 pct of trading out of the market.

    2. Offshoring. Most traders would move their trades to countries and jurisdictions without such a tax.

    3. Migration of jobs abroad. With trading costly, tens of thousands of jobs – traders, programmers, software engineers, office works, contractors, etc would go to the less costly locale. Cities like Chicago and New York will lose hundreds of millions in spending by these employees. And, of course, the taxes on that money.

    4. Closure of small businesses. The trading community includes tend of thousands of people, especially in Chicago, who work for trading businesses. Many of these firms have less than 500 employees.

    5. Elimination of non-trading jobs. Trading firms pay large amounts to blue collar workers who build trading connection infrastructure; wiring, electrical systems, air conditioning, microwave lines, etc.

    6. Destruction of a pathway for socio/economic mobility. Many traders/programmers/engineers come from lower class backgrounds and chose trading as a means of economic advancement. Billionaires like Warren Buffet already advocate for trading as little as possible. They will be unaffected.

    7. Increase in costs for hedgers and consumers. Farmers, ranchers, oil producers, etc all use the exchanges to hedge their risk. The tax will be passed on to consumers through both the higher transaction costs and the difficulty of finding someone to take the other side of their hedge – a trader.

    8. What is electronic trading? Does it involve using an electronic exhange and utilizing a computer to trade? Does it involve phone orders? Does a farmer arranging to sell his corn over the phone constitute an electronic trade? Does a broker selling 10,000 shares of stock? Why wouldn’t all trades just migrate back to phone?

    9. While a goldfish grows to fill its bowl, Government expands to be larger than its environment. What new programs will this money be spent on? Why not make new programs to combat new scourges that need government intervention like bullying of transgender children who identify as ponies?

    • Agree: PV van der Byl
  15. Andy J says:

    Let’s just be clear about exactly what this would mean for small traders like myself. We are not Wall Street dudes just $5000-$50,000 account holders trying to scrape a living out of the markets, by averaging say 5-7 points a week on the T-bond futures.
    Per Trade
    Current spread: 1 point = $31.25.
    Charges to broker and exchange: $5. Total per trade = $36.25

    Now add this tiny little 0.03% charge shall we?
    Contract size $100,000 × 0.03 = $30. Buy and sell equals $30 each way, so now that’s an extra $60 per trade.

    So the cost of doing the trade would rise roughly 300% from $36.25 to $96.25.

    $96.25 is equivalent to just over 3 points. But my whole weekly plan is to scrape may be five or seven points a week. And that’s accounting for losses, where I lose a couple of points, but I can still come out on top the way it works now. If I have to pay an extra $60 per trade my entire trading plan is dead. Doesn’t reduce by 40%. It disappears 100%. Do you understand that? I don’t see it included in your analysis.

    Can’t you see that for small traders this 0.03% tax means a 300% rise in trading costs that would completely wipe us out of the game. The only players left would be the big boys, the hedge funds, the banks, insurance companies etc. And there are thousands, possibly millions, of little traders like me. Not to mention the brokerage staff who service us.

    Why do you want to do this to us? Are you even aware that we exist? According to your article you don’t even acknowledge our existence. It’s about as dumb as creating trillions of dollars out of thin air in order to suppress interest rates and “stimulate” the economy. It doesn’t factor in the losers in the game, it only looks at it from a very superficial perspective.

    This dumb tax would destroy the last hope for people who can climb into the ring of the free market and have a go at making some big money without being on the government payroll, the big business lobby, the public service unions etc.

    If you want to fix the economy stop fire hosing trillions of dollars into the market via the central banks and completely screwing up every price relation in the economy.

  16. Not only the idea but the practice of raising transaction taxes is an old one.

    In the juurisdictons I am familar with there were pro rata stamp duties on purchase of shares (and progresdive rates of stamp duty on sale of real estate). Now in Australia there is dtill a tax on brokers commissions and stock exchange fees: the GST or VAT as it would be in most countries. The stamp duties were stae taxes and not necessarily at uniform rates. It heled in getting rid of them – as well as the federal BankbDebits Tax and Financial InstitutionscDuty – that the origin of stamp duties lay in the difficulty of raising taxes 250 years ago in a far from totally literatee society. To be able to rely on a document like a lease or a cheque or a share transfer in a court of law it hsd to be stamped with stamps of the right flat rate or pro rata duty before it was admissable in evidence.

    When the Australian states were offered the proceeds of the new GST (VAT) the trade off was abolition of many state duties/taxes which had obvious merit in reducing business costs and lack lof uniformity between states (assuming it generally is a good thing). Now the adfed cost of such turnover badef taxesc for any large broker or bank would be negligible thanks to technological advance.

    • Replies: @Wizard of Oz
  17. @Wizard of Oz

    [Too many typos. Edit your comments BEFORE you publish instead of afterwards. No other commenter has typos. This is your final warning.]

    Apologies for typos. I couldn’t edit bècause I lost power a couple of seconds after hitting Publish Comment.

  18. Agent76 says:

    Rid ourselves of fiat monies and banking.

    “Who controls the issuance of money controls the government!” Nathan Meyer Rothschild

    June 13, 2016 Which Corporations Control The World?

    A surprisingly small number of corporations control massive global market shares. How many of the brands below do you use?

    Aug 30, 2016 Central Banks = Welfare for the Wealthy

    Central banks can only do one thing, and that’s provide monetary welfare for the wealthy.

    • Agree: Stonehands
  19. @Bruce Marshall

    What a load of bull****.

    • Agree: bluedog
  20. It can’t be the ultra realist Ron Unz who gives a “final warning”. It is a really good prompt to stop wasting time on UR threads. (It might be fun to try and come back with just a single teasing typo as The Prizz Factor or maybe Really Anon but it might be better to enter on an electronic fast).

    I may however look for two UR improvements that could ameliorate the typo problem.

    1. Ensure that the print size in the composing box is at least as large as in the published comments so that ageing eyes don’t find it very difficult to edit before pressing Publish Comment.** But if those who almost exclusively read and comment on UR on their smartphone screens are to be discouraged, so be it.

    2. Have the UR software which detects excessive typos (though indulgent of solecisms, fallacies, non-sequiturs, straw men and general intellectual brutishness) suspend the comment but send it back as if notifying a reply with whatever no-doubt-garbled-and-at-best- imperfect corrected version it can come up with.

    ** I have just spread the Comment box with my fingers and thereby made the contents as legible as in a published comment if I am willing to put up with the text box not fitting conveniently within the boundaries of the screen.

    I proffer that info for any who might otherwise be living in fear of a First Warning.

    • Replies: @Stonehands
  21. bluedog says:
    @Bruce Marshall

    Hmm the song of the lazy farmer or take care of me from the cradle to the grave the farmers should be classified as wards of the Federal Government for there isn’t a damn thing they do but what there isn’t a federal program to take care of them.

    On the lay-off list it was telling about how they dumped 2.1 million gallons of milk, over at the surplus milk plant they reported they dumped 2.5 million pounds of milk this past year, but yet the tax payer gets to pay the subsidy on milk, and this has been going on for years, free lime free fertilizer free cover crop free this free that, while their accounts are screaming on the phone you have to spend more or else you will have to pay (oh dear God not that nasty word)some taxes. ,after all you wouldn’t want to save any money from a good year to tide you over in a bad year

    Here in N.Y. they were talking of passing a bill requiring farmers to pay overtime (normal wage of those working for a farmer is $10.00 to $11.50 per hour no benefits of course) and the farmers all headed for Albany crying a river of tears, that they would rather spend $250,00 on a new tractor rather then paying their help any where near a living wage or as a farmer says if you want to make more money work more hours but don’t ask for a raise..

  22. The size of HFT market is 1-2B. Used to be 7B. Yeah, this will solve a lot of inequality problems.

    It is amazing how ignorant the liberal economists are when it comes to trading securities.

  23. TG says:

    These are reasonable proposals, although of course the tax would collect less than projected, because if enacted the amount of trading would decline, and people would find other avenues to play these games. Still, it should make the system more stable and hopefully point it back towards its original goal of price discovery and allocating resources instead of high-tech point shaving (one can hope).

    On the other hand, it won’t do much for income inequality. That’s because income inequality is being driven by too-rapid population growth. The post-1970 changes in US immigration policy have already increased the American population by about 100 million more than it would have been if the matter had been left to the public itself (remember, it’s not the fraction of the population that is foreign born that is the issue: it is the total increase in population, including descendants, due to immigration).

    Nobody beats supply and demand. As long as the rich keep jamming in more people faster than our current economy can absorb, there will be more people than jobs, and wages and benefits for the many will decline and profits for the few will increase. A tax on financial transactions will have not fundamental effects on this process.

  24. Redistribution of wealth is a religious dream that will never be accomplished. The people that promote it should be allowed to put their money where their mouths are and volunteer to pay more of their own “wealth” to support the parasites that take advantage of being losers. Understand this: your politicians use wealth redistribution for two reasons. First, to get elected and re-elected so they can keep their snouts in the pig trough. Second, borrow money into existence to pay for ridiculous schemes in ridiculous amounts and accrue more debt for the productive individuals. They don’t give two bowel movements about the people that the money is given too, or to the idiots that vote their “feelings”. Those of you that do participate in this swindle are useful idiots and have never bothered to think about the fragile nature of human interaction. The “system” will not go on for ever and never has. Another “system” will be substituted at some point and then you can pat yourselves on the back as to how enlightened you were in giving someone else’s money to a thousand people that do need help (and could get it through private charities if government wasn’t taking so much of your money) and also to the millions that are thieves and parasites. Thanks for being so “enlightened”!

  25. Agent76 says:

    May 21, 2013 Why the whole banking system is a scam

    Godfrey Bloom MEP • European Parliament, Strasbourg, 21 May 2013 • MEP, UKIP (Yorkshire Lincolnshire)

    • Replies: @Stonehands
  26. @Anonymous

    Egalatarians just need to get smart.
    Every time capital takes its hands out reach of appropriate correctives to market failures, labor should just start nullifying capital with its own blockchains.
    Create a currency, mass distribute it to everyone with a cell phone and a SSN, and have people insist on using the new currency until the assets denominated in predatory currency are nullified.
    Rinse, wash, repeat.

  27. JamesG says:

    Conservative spokespeople ought to have strangled this “inequality” baby once it was created by the left.

    They didn’t so it will never go away. Only if we adopt a North Korean style economy will “inequality” disappear.

    Think I’m exaggerating? Make a list of the steps conservatives could take that would satisfy the “inequality!” screamers. You can’t name one.

    • Replies: @Agent76
  28. @Andy J

    The problems of capital concentration (which lead to nearly every subject of this journal) are much greater than the disappointed trading careers of a few small-fry T-bill traders. You can make up your $100/week flipping burgers.

    • Replies: @Andy J
  29. Jamie_NYC says:

    This article is so stupid I laughed out loud. “The burden of an FTT is borne pretty much in full by the financial sector.” As someone said: “some people believe that if there was a tax on cows, it will be paid by cows. “

  30. Agent76 says:

    It most certainly will! Mar 20, 2013 My escape from North Korea | Hyeonseo Lee

    As a child growing up in North Korea, Hyeonseo Lee thought her country was “the best on the planet.” It wasn’t until the famine of the 90s that she began to wonder. She escaped the country at 14, to begin a life in hiding, as a refugee in China. Hers is a harrowing, personal tale of survival and hope — and a powerful reminder of those who face constant danger, even when the border is far behind.

  31. Wally says:

    That does not follow.
    What follows is that Big Greedy Government has repeatedly abused it’s taxing powers.
    Most taxpayers had no problem with controlled, closely monitored taxation, but due to government greed there is now resistance by taxpayers to paying the way of the lazy, the unproductive.
    Big Greedy Government only has itself to blame for that.

    example, gasoline taxes:

    US oil companies make ca. five cents off a single gallon of gasoline, on the other hand US Big Government taxes on a single gallon is around seventy-one cents, there is variation by state.
    CA & other states have big, big increases coming.
    Californians will soon pay $1.00 in taxes for every single gallon of gasoline.

    It’s Big Greedy Government, not Big Oil.

  32. Wally says:

    Why reduce the number of billionaires? Billionaires are good. I wish I was one.

    Billionaire are billionaires because they offer goods, services that are in demand.

    Indeed, there are ‘billionaires’ who have enriched themselves by selling arms, etc., not illegal.
    Don’t like it? Then demand a huge cutback in ‘defense’ spending instead of singling out ‘billionaires’.

    So …

    • Replies: @Bill
    , @Anon
    , @Noah Way
    , @animalogic
  33. Andy J says:

    I think you’ve missed the point. Capital concentration is not coming about due to lack of a financial transactions tax. This will not fix it. Capital concentration is being caused by creation of new money by the central banking system and the new money, trillions of dollars of it, flows into the hands of the rich. It flows into the asset markets raising the value of their real estate, stocks and bonds. It’s not trading the capital markets that’s causing the inequity it’s the maldistribution of the rivers of new money
    What this proposed tax will do is wipe out not a few small fry traders but, thousands possibly millions of retail trading accounts from smallholders. It will just leave the rich and powerful in charge even more than they are. It won’t stop them getting richer still from the rivers of new money. It is a thoroughly misconceived tax.

    • Replies: @Sam J.
  34. Willem says:

    What the author mentions, without giving it that name, is Tobin tax.

    You can read about Tobin tax in the following essay from Chomsky, which is a bit long, so I give you his conclusion

    ‘- short term speculation, like, against currencies, is essentially, aimed at driving down growth and increasing profits and lowering wages.

    This was understood very quickly — by the late 70s. And there were proposals made, for example by James Tobin — Yale economist Nobel Prize winner — at an American Economic Association Presidential Address 1978, simply — suggested a simple reform: low tax, very low tax, on short-term financial transactions, just to slow it down, you know, throw a little sand in the gears. Probably work, it’s been called the Tobin Tax, but it’s not getting anywhere because the weapon is a very important one. That weapon has been used very efficiently for all the purposes that have been described.’

  35. Bill says:

    HFT != day traders

  36. Bill says:

    Obamacare is socialism! Libruls are teh real racists! The GOP is the party of principles!

  37. Bill says:

    “Government spending is simply out of control.”

    Exactly! And don’t let anyone distract you with, say, the fact that government spending has been sitting at 20% of the US economy since WWII. Facts are for socialists.

    • Replies: @LauraMR
    , @Anon
  38. Bill says:

    Billionaire are billionaires because they offer goods, services that are in demand.

    Lloyd Blankfein: value producer.

  39. Anon • Disclaimer says:

    Indeed, you could tax billionaires at an extraordinarily high level and they wouldn’t stop being billionaires. Rockefeller stayed on. So did the Vanderbilts and the Carnegies.

  40. A proposed tax is a solution in search of a progressive’s perceived problem.

  41. A Tax on Wall Street Trading Is the Best Solution to Income Inequality

    Taxes are theft.

    Besides that, the bulk of them typically end up in the pockets of the least deserving such as banks and insolvent corporations that get bailed out. That means the cash winds up in the pockets of the Wall Street thieves and owners of government any way you slice it, so how can they be a good solution???

    The only good tax is an abolished one.

    • Replies: @Agent76
  42. The biggest problem causing income inequality is big government. Cut the Government, particularly FedGov, back to its constitutional functions and the overwhelming majority of the problem will be solved.

    • Replies: @Delinquent Snail
  43. @Wizard of Oz

    You should change your handle to “Bumptious Q. Bangwhistle III.”

    • Agree: jacques sheete
  44. A gambling tax is decades overdue: stocks, commodities, securities. As for “lock-boxing” the proceeds: good luck. Clearly proceeds could wipe out student debit/higher education tuitions and put health care costs where they belong (ie) off the back of employers and on the federal government where they belong as a right of citizenship and national defense re pandemic response.

  45. Noah Way says:

    Billionaire are billionaires because they offer goods, services that are in demand.

    Goldman Sachs makes money on every bottle of ketchup sold. They are not “offering services” – they are speculators manipulating markets for their own profit.

    Of Barclay’s records profits 75% went to management and 25% went to investors.

  46. @Agent76

    Excellent post…

    Not just central bankers…

    What controls America today and the whole West are not governments, they are faceless tyrannies, branch offices of a single monstrous SYSTEM.

    When we speak of the thousands of interchangeable, expendable, parts of the alien, inhuman bureacracy, we speak of the System.

    From police to welfare bureacrats, to city, local, state and national appointees and so called “elected” officials; from prison administration to the Armed Forces; those who either represent the System or are in the employ of the System ARE in fact the System itself.

    High and low it is marked by the overweening drive to entrench itself ever deeper into the body of the nation- like the parasite that it is- to evade any and all real responsibility, and to regulate the lives of everyone it can in as minute detail as the System “legislators” can clear a path to legally do so.

    We should subscribe to the addage that, in order to kill an “ism” you must kill the “ists”.
    In this ultra- sick society the members of the Establishment, the System and of Big Brothers exclusive few… are the Ruling Class…all the rest of us (productive people) are Hereditary Property.
    As we can see (think 9/11 and the bank bail- outs) none of them will accept resonsibility for anything. Their defense is their endless red tape. Their offense is their economic system (not to mention the PRESS, courts and police). They hide behind the “law”. They are “officialdom”.
    To participate in this ongoing conspiracy any longer is a crime that should be punished by death.

    And no appeals will be granted by a Revolutionary Court.

    • Replies: @Z-man
    , @Agent76
    , @Anon
  47. Z-man says:

    ‘animalogic’ wins the debate!

  48. utu says:

    Americans love their billionaires. Their love is inversely proportional to their education and income. And billionaires in return love their peasants and keep them uneducated and poor to get only more love. A match made in heaven. God bless America.

  49. Rather than a FTT, I suggest that a whole new taxation system be implemented that replaces the existing federal income tax.

    I suggest that a new tax have no direct contact between the federal government and the people and their businesses.

    Instead the federal government would send a annual or quarterly itemized bill to each state government and let each state government decide how they will pay their bill.

    I suggest that each state government have a line item veto where they can decide which itemized federal service they wish to fund, up to some limit.

    Vetoed items would presumably be serviced by the state government or not at all.

    • Replies: @jacques sheete
  50. Welcome, Dean Baker. We need able economists here and you’re among the ablest.

    You will find here a very different audience from the one to whom you generally address yourself. It is not so much that those here are cretins or unenlightened as it is that they propose arguments which are at cross purposes to those put forth by liberal economists. The two factions warring for America’s Soul today don’t have much to say to one another but in talking right past each other they are fired by identical emotions.

    Here we begin from Biology while writers such as you and Krugman begin and end with economics. We are natural scientists who believe in Darwin first and Keynes maybe later. Humans are first of all members of a family, community and tribe and while their particular economic organization is important and determinative it is so in that it acts upon humans in a Darwinian sense, that is, in shaping their gene pool.

    For the contemporary economist, immersed as he is in his data, tables, graphs and multivariate analysis, human beings are digits, taken as interchangeable units of production and consumption. This is valuable and fine as far as it goes. However, it does an injustice to humans because they are first and foremost intensely personal creatures. They aren’t merely members of a flock, herd or school. On the contrary, experience has shown that when humans are reared as though they were simply interchangeable members of a herd e.g. in an orphanage, foster home etc. then they have a strong tendency to develop into psychopaths as adults.They are incapable of empathy with or sympathy towards others. Thus, to be human is to be loyal to one’s own tribe.

    But regarded by the light of the globalist, free-trade, Ricardian comparative advantage of your fellow economist Paul Krugman, all humans are essentially one big flock of fungible producer/consumers. In your and his world, free trade and free movement of human beings are not zero-sum games. Supposedly, such unrestricted open borders lifts all boats and those stubborn nativists who cling to their communities are just too dumb to realize it.

    We’ve seen this before. In the German Empire of WW2 era and the Japanese Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere as well as in Soviet Russia. Those attempts at world or portions of the world domination engendered opposition just as the Neo-Liberal/Conservative agenda does today. Out of Le Resistance of the French partisans grew the ultimate elaboration and literary expression of that opposition, Existentialism. One was compelled to choose between loyalty to one’s home, soil, family, village and people or loyalty to the Empire. There was/is no middle ground. Either/Or.

    And then, just as today, loyalty to one’s own people was punished by the collaborators. Those who resisted the Regime were imprisoned and murdered. Today, they are fired, excommunicated or locked up. Do you find it odd that you are numbered among the Vichy collaborators? How can this be when, after all, you regard yourself as a progressive?

    Most relevant today is the issue of equality between the races. From your reading here you may already know or will discover that the ancestors of Europeans and Asians departed from the African continent roughly 60 million years ago. They were relatively few in number but that’s a good thing because natural selection can only do its thing on a somewhat restricted gene pool. If an advantageously adaptive gene is promiscuously outbred then it doesn’t have an opportunity to establish itself in the gene pool for whom it would be an advantageous adaptation.

    A “bottleneck” is the polite way of referring to this state of affairs, e.g that of the European founder population. The less often acknowledged, other side of the coin, is that Africans were held back by introgression, that is, the continuous process of breeding back into less highly evolved hominids. There were numerous trunks to the human family tree in Africa and not all of them had reached the same level of advancement. As Camus and Hegel have pointed out, the fundamental distinction between the slave and master is that the master controls the slave’s sex life. The master may mate with the slave at will; the reverse is not the case. Because slavery was endemic in Africa, back breeding with inferior, less highly evolved humanoids was the rule, an expression of dominance.

    In an ironic twist to history then, those humans who escaped Africa were enabled thereby to advance at a more rapid pace than those humans who were tethered to the dead weight of primitive genes. The gene pool of Africa acted as ballast which hindered the free evolution of those who could not emigrant. He travels fastest who travels alone.

    (Incidentally, this is why you are not a progressive. You advocate global universalism, which undermines evolutionary advance under the pressure of natural selection. What you and Krugman advocate is equivalent to introgression, which results in stagnation of the human genome).

    In just such a manner as the smaller gene pool of those who (60,000 years ago) became Europeans and Asians was less encumbered by the dead weight of massive primitivity so too the Ashkenazi Jew of 1000 years ago evolved in Europe. A relatively small population that practiced inbreeding and which was faced with a challenging environment that fostered cultural selection rapidly created a coherent gene pool which was in some respects superior to its antecedents.

    What’s good for the goose…..

    • Replies: @Stonehands
  51. JimB says:

    How about a heavy tax on legal settlements, too? Especially on the lawyer’s cut.

  52. LauraMR says:

    Even Wikipedia knows better…

    And this one just for fun…

    • Replies: @Bill
  53. Using the argument that this or that tax will cover 60% of the food stamp budget for instance is specious. Even if it funded 100% politicians will seek to draw more helpless rubes on to the draw for votes and away we go. With a future democrat administration, that would be the global helpless going on the American taxpayer draw. Gut the federal government to bare minimum requirements and let states tax commensurate to their needs.

  54. Anon • Disclaimer says:
    @Noah Way

    The guy who pumps your cesspool is far more critical to functioning society than the parasite who skims off a fee on financial transactions.

    The article at hand proposes that ‘government’ skim a fee from financial transactions. Somehow I believe the irony in your remark is lost on you.

    • Replies: @Noah Way
  55. Anon • Disclaimer says:

    Facts are for socialists.

    You do know that your own chart trashes your own argument, right? It shows clearly that 1) federal outlays by this one particular metric (% GDP) achieved a record high during the Obama Administration, with the sole exception of WW2; and 2) federal outlays are hardly the only measure of government spending anyway. Ever heard of state and local government?

    • Replies: @Bill
  56. @ThreeCranes

    Most relevant today is the issue of equality between the races. From your reading here you may already know or will discover that the ancestors of Europeans and Asians departed from the African continent roughly 60 million years ago…

    DNA Evidence Debunks the “Out-of-Africa” Theory of Human Evolution

    • Replies: @ANON
  57. Z-man says:

    Good post and ‘hip, hip hooray’ for Godfrey Bloom MEP !

  58. @Wally

    Just to add something to the very good replies you received Wally.
    Another problem with billionaires (& huge Co’s) is that they eventually distort & poison democracy: hence the Stanford study on government receptiveness to the 95% (ie basically zero) & Citizens United (unlimited political contributions).
    Secondly, all that speculation that billionaires & their hedge funds & banks engage in distorts & poisons the economy (ie 1929, 2007).
    The greater the concentration of money outside the 95% the greater the power of the Oligarchy — not citizens. Are you a citizen Wally, or an Oligarch ?

  59. ANON • Disclaimer says:

    And you believe the stuff in that link?

    • Replies: @Stonehands
  60. @Joe Franklin

    I suggest that each state government have a line item veto where they can decide which itemized federal service they wish to fund, up to some limit.

    I’m pretty certain that such a system was in effect before the constitution, and was one of the little known underlying motives the constitution was imposed on the rest of us. That is, the money grubbers wanted a more effective and easier way to grub into the pockets of others so they came up with the scheme to centralize everything.

    I believe that anti-federalists were worried about loss of states’ rights such as that.

    The constitution made extortion more efficient.

    • Agree: Stonehands
  61. athEIst says:

    solitary, nasty, brutish and short.

  62. athEIst says:
    @Andy J

    account holders trying to scrape a living out of the markets, by averaging say 5-7 points a week on the T-bond futures.
    You could get a real job

  63. @ANON

    I believe there is no such thing as time.

    • Replies: @ANON
  64. Truth says:

    The author wants not only to soak the rich, but to screw the talented as well

    Wall street billionaires are not “talented” they are temporarily lucky, in ownership of the fastest supercomputers, in possession of insider info., or scammer/parasites.

  65. @Wizard of Oz

    Im reading these comments, and several people have typos. This article has people scrambling to get their 2 cents out.
    Also, that mod is vicious.

  66. @Quartermaster

    The problem with that is, its too big. Its a great idea but our current system wont even contemplate such a proposal.

  67. Right on Dean Baker! You hit the nail right on the head. All of the naysayers are either trolls or day traders.

    Why should speculators (gamblers) in this casino economy not pay a sales tax just like we are obligated to pay for any other product or service? My state and local sales tax = 5.3% – even on food. And, if I go to a restaurant, I pay 11%!

    A measly 1% tax on financial speculation would provide billions of dollars annually for local and national budgets. States teetering on bankruptcy would immediately be solvent, and education could be fully funded.

    If Wall Street threatens to flee off-shore, then just legislate against it. The U.S. government is our voice and our power to wield. The parasites will instantly acquiesce to sucking less from their victims if the alternative is no more access to their victims at all. You will find the loudest voices against this type of Big Government protection for citizens are on Wall Street, so if you aren’t demanding justice against this type of usury, you are just a complete chump.

    MAKE THEM PAY – a 1% Wall Street Sales Tax

    • Agree: utu
  68. Sam J. says:
    @Andy J

    “…It’s not trading the capital markets that’s causing the inequity it’s the maldistribution of the rivers of new money…”

    You’ve gotten to the meat of the problem. We had a housing loan crisis and what happened. They gave the banks essentially zero rate interest on we know $16 Trillion dollars and from public accounts $29 Trillion or more. This did nothing for the people having problems making their house mortgages but it did pump a huge amount of money to the banks. I have NO doubt at all what they did with that money is buy every damn productive enterprise in the whole economy. Now when the next downturn comes we will own nothing and they will charge us for the air we breath.

    What if instead of giving it to banks they gave one time zero interest loan to Americans. With it they could pay off their mortgages or school loans or whatever. At $29 Trillion and 300 million Americans we could have given a zero interest loan for every family of four of $386,666. Housing crisis solved and the economy would have roared with all that cash going into people’s pockets. Instead the banks got all the money to buy hard assets and we got the bill.

    It’s not people making money that pisses of Americans it’s this Oligarchical insider monopoly rip off that we get no part of. If they get free money I want some too. If that’s not feasible then F*&K them they shouldn’t get any either.

  69. Sam J. says:

    “…In your and his world, free trade and free movement of human beings are not zero-sum games. Supposedly, such unrestricted open borders lifts all boats and those stubborn nativists who cling to their communities are just too dumb to realize it…”

    Part of the problem is the Asian economies ARE playing a zero sum game. They will never allow the US to trade freely.

    I would be for taxing financial transactions not for revenue but to slow volatility and to stop the cheating by Wall Street. They pour massive money into certain stocks like a gambler who drives everyone else from the game by making bets so high no one else can get in the game. Some things would still be traded overseas but we could limit trading in US goods by making the contracts invalid in the US.

  70. jim jones says:
    @Wizard of Oz

    Get a browser with a spell checker

    • Replies: @Anon
  71. Bill says:

    Nonsense. The chart shows federal outlays bouncing around 20% of GDP since WWII. But if you really, really, really want it to be true that government spending is out of control, that makes it true, right?

    By the way, do you know what a recession is?

  72. Bill says:

    Debt, spending. Rising, flat. Who can be bothered with these distinctions. Facts are for socialists.

  73. Agent76 says:

    Thanks Stonehands for your time and comment, and this is another good one that actually gives everyone a great view that the mind alone cannot grasp.

    Mar 20, 2017 US Debt of $20 Trillion Visualized in Stacks of Physical Cash

    Showing stacks of physical cash in following sequence: $100, $10,000, $1 Million, $2 Billion, $1 Trillion, $20 Trillion. The faith and value of the US Dollar rests on the Government’s ability to repay its debt. “The money in the video has already been spent”

    • Replies: @Noah Way
    , @Sam J.
  74. Noah Way says:

    The government fee is (in theory at least) used for social good. Private enterprise fee skimmers are using it for their own personal gain at the expense of the entire country.

    • Replies: @OutWest
  75. Noah Way says:

    As money is a construct and not a physical resource the entire debt could be erased with a stroke of a pen (or push of a button, to be more precise). But that would end the system of control (debt slavery) exerted by the rich, so it will not happen.

    Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable. — J.F.K.

    • Replies: @Anon
  76. OutWest says:
    @Noah Way

    What about retirement investing? Is this also skimming? My index fund retirement investment is rather low fee so a tax would really show up as negative results.

    Social Security is going away go know. So we have to take care of ourselves for retirement.

  77. Anon • Disclaimer says:
    @jim jones

    Is there one that works with spellchecket on a smartphone?

  78. Anon • Disclaimer says:
    @Noah Way

    If you abolish debt you abolish the interest incomes that hundreds of millions receive in greatly varying amounts, especially in retirement, so what do you do about that?

  79. Anon • Disclaimer says:

    So you are controlled by the SYSTEM. What has it made you do or stopped you doing contrary to your wishes?

    • Replies: @Stonehands
  80. @Anon

    Corvinus, is that you?

  81. Sam J. says:

    We can’t get rid of the debt with our present structure of money creation. All our money is created by debt so if we get rid of all the debt we would have no money.

  82. Agent76 says:
    @jacques sheete

    You nailed it on all counts right there Jacques Sheete! I share this on the topic.

    Nov 21, 2013 The State is an Institution of Theft – Godfrey Bloom

    • European Parliament, Brussels, 21 November 2013

    • Speaker: Godfrey Bloom MEP, Ind. (Yorkshire & Lincolnshire), Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD)

  83. Agent76 says:

    Jun 1, 2017 G. Edward Griffin on Trump, Secret Societies, Collectivism, Bitcoin and Taking The Red Pill

    Jeff interviews esteemed returning guest G Edward Griffin, author of the book ‘The Creature From Jekyll Island’ who is hosting the upcoming Red Pill Expo conference in Bozeman, Montana 23-24 June.

  84. There is nothing that more quickly saps my sense of hope for the future, than right leaning comment sections about punishing the ‘speculators’ on Wall Street. The degree to which these comments seem to make sense to the reader is in direct inverse proportion to the degree to which the reader actually understand how Wall Street works.

    There really isn’t any doubt that an informed opinion is more valuable than an uninformed one. But thanks to Dunning-Kruger, everyone thinks they understand ‘Wall Street’ and the role of evil speculators.

    Here is a simple fact. There is no way for a government, run by people of more or less average intelligence, to change the rules so that stupid people make intelligent choices, and intelligent people make stupid ones. Efforts like that are what ‘really’ caused the mortgage meltdown.

    Whatever new rules the government comes up with, the smart people on ‘Wall Street’ will figure a way around them. Virtually the entire derivatives market exists for this very reason – certainly 100% of the derivatives created in the last 50 years anyway. It was willed into existence by financier’s desire to stay within the letter of the law while getting around the spirit of it.

    Have you ever wondered why a ‘Swap’ can look in all respects exactly like a ‘Bond’ but be treated as an off balance sheet transaction? If you haven’t, then you don’t know nearly enough about this process to make an informed comment on the validity of a transaction tax. If you have, then you probably see the whole thought process as an exercise in futility just like I do.

    So… you want a transaction tax? Go ahead. It will put thousands of middle income Wall street workers out of jobs, (or at least drive a few of them into the compliance department) and have dozens of unintended consequences from higher market volatility to restaurant closures, to pension blowups in suburban New Jersey. But what it will not do, is ‘punish the billionaire speculators’ some of you seem to think are both so common, and so evil.

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