Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! We only ask one time of year, but when we do, we mean it. Without your support we can’t continue to bring you the very best material, day-in and day-out. CounterPunch is one of the last common spaces on the Internet. Help make sure it stays that way.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Time for a Sales Tax on Wall Street Financial Transactions

by RALPH NADER

Here are some questions to consider: What do the Wall Street firms do that is so vital for the national interest? How does speculation contribute to our society? It’s time for Wall Street to step up and provide some answers.

The reckless actions of Wall Street institutions led to the collapse of the the U.S. economy and the deep recession of 2008-09. The Wall Street firms looted and gambled trillions in worker pensions and mutual fund savings. The Wall Street traders made billions of dollars in speculative money — bets on bets — holding hostage the real economy where money is made by providing goods and services. And the actions of Wall Street resulted in the loss of more than 8 million jobs.

Despite all the lasting harm caused by the casino capitalists, the big banks are now bigger, richer and more powerful than they were when they were bailed out in late 2008. The only ones who were punished were the U.S. taxpayers, who footed the $600 billion bill for the excesses of Wall Street. Brazenly, many firms still continue to gamble with other people’s money.

Something needs to change. One necessary change lies in a financial transaction tax — often referred to as the “Robin Hood Tax.” The Robin Hood Tax movement began in the United Kingdom in 2010 with the support of hundreds of economists, prominent public figures and social justice organizations.

Yesterday, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) reintroduced “The Inclusive Prosperity Act” — inspired by the Robin Hood Tax. If passed, the bill (H.R. 1579) would create a minuscule tax on the purchase and sale of derivatives, options and stocks. The tax would be small, half a percent or less of the transaction value, depending on the product. This amounts to half a penny or less per dollar.

Consider this fact: American consumers in most states pay sales taxes on the necessities they purchase — cars, appliances, clothes, etc. The rate of such sales tax is, in some areas, as high as 7 percent. For example, a schoolteacher or police officer who buys a $100 pair of shoes pays up to $7 in sales taxes. Most people accept the idea of paying such a tax. But what about the folks on Wall Street? A trader can buy and sell millions of dollars of financial products each day without paying a cent in sales taxes. Why should financial transactions be exempt from a small sales tax?
A financial transaction tax could raise $350 billion annually — money that could be used to repair critical infrastructure, create decent paying jobs, reduce the tax burden on individuals and start to rein in frivolous high-volume trading.

At the news conference announcing the legislation, Rep. Ellison said: “This is a small tax on financial transactions that will allow us to meet the needs of our nation. And didn’t America step up, on very short notice, for Wall Street when it needed help? Well, now the American people need help.”

Critics of a financial transaction tax have all sorts of excuses. They argue it would harm ordinary investors; it wouldn’t, there are protections in place for small investors. Some say it would drive trading to offshore tax havens; but forty countries already have such a tax in place with little compelling evidence showing an adverse effect.

It’s obvious that the casino capitalists won’t give an ounce of their moral obligation without a fight. However, the endorsement of more than a thousand economists speaks volumes. One supporter, the Capital Institute’s John Fullerton (a former managing director at JPMorgan), has stated that a financial transaction tax could have significant impact in lessening the use of high-frequency trading. He has estimated that nearly 70 percent of equity-trading volume falls under this category of highly speculative trading. In June 2012, Fullerton and over 50 other financial industry professionals wrote a letter to the G20 and European leaders advocating for small financial transaction taxes.

The United States had a financial transaction tax from 1914 until 1966. It imposed a tax of 2 cents on every $100 sale or transfer of stock.

The question I posed at the outset was: What does Wall Street do that is so vital for the national interest? To begin to answer it, they can start paying this small tax. As the Robin Hood tax website succinctly puts it with their slogan, it would be “small change for the banks and big change for the people.” The $350 billion raised annually with a financial transaction tax would go a long way in helping American workers and bolstering the economy.

If you agree, stop practicing futility. Show a civic pulse. Write and call your Congressional Representative. Tell them you support “The Inclusive Prosperity Act” and they should support it as well. National Nurses United, the largest union and professional association of registered nurses in the United States, has already done this and much more with their national Robin Hood Tax campaign.

Visit robinhoodtax.org to learn more.

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition.

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 28, 2016
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
James McEnteer
Eugene, Oregon and the Rising Cost of Cool
Norman Pollack
The Great Debate: Proto-Fascism vs. the Real Thing
Michael Winship
The Tracks of John Boehner’s Tears
John Steppling
Fear Level Trump
Lawrence Wittner
Where Is That Wasteful Government Spending?
James Russell
Beyond Debate: Interview Styles of the Rich and Famous
September 26, 2016
Diana Johnstone
The Hillary Clinton Presidency has Already Begun as Lame Ducks Promote Her War
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Against Russia
Dave Lindorff
Parking While Black: When Police Shoot as First Resort
Robert Crawford
The Political Rhetoric of Perpetual War
Howard Lisnoff
The Case of One Homeless Person
Michael Howard
The New York Times Endorses Hillary, Scorns the World
Russell Mokhiber
Wells Fargo and the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival
Chad Nelson
The Crime of Going Vegan: the Latest Attack on Angela Davis
Colin Todhunter
A System of Food Production for Human Need, Not Corporate Greed
Brian Cloughley
The United States Wants to Put Russia in a Corner
Guillermo R. Gil
The Clevenger Effect: Exposing Racism in Pro Sports
David Swanson
Turn the Pentagon into a Hospital
Ralph Nader
Are You Ready for Democracy?
Chris Martenson
Hell to Pay
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Debate Night: Undecided is Everything, Advantage Trump
Frank X Murphy
Power & Struggle: the Detroit Literacy Case
Chris Knight
The Tom and Noam Show: a Review of Tom Wolfe’s “The Kingdom of Speech”
Weekend Edition
September 23, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Meaning of the Trump Surge
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: More Pricks Than Kicks
Mike Whitney
Oh, Say Can You See the Carnage? Why Stand for a Country That Can Gun You Down in Cold Blood?
Chris Welzenbach
The Diminution of Chris Hayes
Vincent Emanuele
The Riots Will Continue
Rob Urie
A Scam Too Far
Pepe Escobar
Les Deplorables
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes, Obfuscation and Propaganda in Syria
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail