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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The least they can do

America may be on the verge of getting a stock market transaction tax. It's about time. But get ready to hear the Wall Street weasels who stole our kids' future scream loud and long about it.

Comments (19)

Trial ballons are fun to watch.

I can't let this populist screed pass without comment.

The economy was artificially hyped -- so the kiddies never earned that last 20 to 30 percent to begin with.

Let's see, London, Frankfurt, or stick closer to home, Toronto, here I come.

Does anyone really think this would stabilize markets? Just think of how much higher transaction costs were, how much less liquid markets were and how much protection that bought on October 19, 1987.

Find anything you don't like, tax it, and good things will happen, of course. Then find things you do like, and subsidize them. And when folks respond to the taxes, subsidies and other government interventions blame them for being greedy. Go for it!

Let's call this what it is: populist garbage.

DeFazio is a moron, so I expect this from him, but I get really disappointed when people who should know better throw their weight behind it.

The average investor does not engage in "Wall Street gambling" or speculative trading, so this tax will be akin to hauling in a boatload of dolphins with the tuna nets in terms of effectiveness.

The only redeeming feature of the bill is the deficit-reduction aspect, but if it is bundled with a "jobs fund" provision, it becomes worthless. Didn't work too well for the Big 3, did it? The last thing Congress needs right now is another $75 billion slush fund. And the fact that it will be linked to the transportation bill reauthorization makes it even worse. It's not just "stimulus", it is a another long-term liability. Questions of mega-waste are beyond the pale.

Even those who are lured by opportunity to "stick it to Wall Street" have to be troubled by the amount of regulations and exemptions that are already in the proposal, even before it has gone through the sausage factory. It is an interest group's dream, but a taxpayer's nightmare.

Let's hope the American people grow up in the next couple years and move beyond being reeled in by simplistic slogans like the "Main Street/Wall Street" dichotomy. If they don't, they deserve all the manure that DeFazio and others can shovel on top of them.

"Find anything you don't like, tax it, and good things will happen, of course. Then find things you do like, and subsidize them. And when folks respond to the taxes, subsidies and other government interventions blame them for being greedy. Go for it!"

Well, Grady, your plan sounds a lot better than what we do now, which is tax the things we DO like (earnings, wages, investments, interest on savings, capital gains -- even unemployment insurance payments) while, at the same time, not taxing what we don't like -- non-productive computer-run arbitrage, pollution, hazardous waste, and consumption of non-renewable resources.

Given that people DO respond to incentives (as you suggest), we definitely SHOULD use Tobin taxes to take a tiny slice out of speculative trading. Since such trading creates no value (it's part of a zero-sum game) the revenue obtained is all to the good, and if anyone is discouraged from doing it, no harm done and they can find more productive ways to invest their money.

Trial balloons are fun to watch

Yes, they are. But they can too easily turn into Trojan horses.

If I remember correctly, DeFazio pitched the same kind of nonsense about six months ago when he suggested a tax on oil futures transactions in order to finance additional federal spending on transportation. The prospect (and illusion) of an economic and political free lunch was too much for him.

"Since such trading creates no value (it's part of a zero-sum game)"

incorrect - speculation provides liquidity and risk mitigation for long term investors.

trading creates no value (it's part of a zero-sum game)


Ok so instead of permitting people to buy and sell ownership interests and supply capital to productive and profitable enterprises, let's have the government direct capital allocation.

No value is created by bidding processes directing capital to its highest and best uses, is that what you think?

Then let's come up with a centralized 5-year plan and throw out those pernicious market forces.

The heck with Microsoft and Apple. Get those enterprises back into the garage. If Gates and Jobs couldn't finance the growth of those corporations out their own pockets or convince a government official to send along TARP funds, the heck with them.

Forget all those Nike Airs - we can go back to Chuck Taylors. Did we really need funds invested in all these different types of shoes, when one color and one size (hightops to boot) would do?

And forget all that capital that was directed to developing internal combustion engines that are about 100 percent more efficient and something like 90 percent cleaner in a generation.

We can replace this all with a system of grants and political directives that will do just fine.

And sure, let's tax people for the act of working, quite apart from whatever value is created by their endeavor. Those people who work -- let's tax them every time they arrive or leave from their place of employment and really stick it to them when they want to change jobs. Because, of course, it's stability that we want.

And its a back door way of getting into peoples pockets to get taxes out of IRA's, and 401K's (which are overwhelming invested in mutual funds that have relatively high turnovers on underlying assets) as well as hedge funds which are the investors of choice for many pension funds and nonprofit endowments.

That's quite a hyperbolic (not to mention hysterical) rhetorical leap, equating a minuscule tax proposal to Soviet central planning and the imminent death of Microsoft! But sadly not an unusual one for today's unhinged conservative movement.

Just a little perspective: The past three decades have witnessed the largest upward transfer of wealth in human history. Massive, exponential increases in worker productivity due to advancing technology and education -- coupled with stagnant (at best) wages -- where do you think all that money went? Surely it's about time a little of it started to trickle back down to those who actually did the work.

Hello!!! there was a stock transaction tax for years and years and years and it helped keep the constant big time trades from churning the markets, and made some $$$ for the government.
For those of us at the lower end of the market it is no big deal. Let's stop wanting something for nothing. We are all going to have to buck up and pay sooner or later. And the really big guys should pay more...a lot more.

"That's quite a hyperbolic (not to mention hysterical) rhetorical leap ..."

Go ahead, mention hysterical. Because it's true.

Mostly though, Grady Foster fail. Since the rant, there, is too complicated for Main Streeters.

TAX on Wall Street FAT CATS is simple, see? There's the votes. Rise UP DeFazio ... and Tobin.

those of us at the lower end of the market

I'm convinced that the ranters and whiners so in evidence here don't see themselves that way. Don't forget that, in polls, 17% of Americans consider themselves to be in the top 1% of economic strata. This makes Lake Wobegon (where all the children are above average) look like a center of self-effacement. Self-absorption is alive and thriving in America. Happy Thanksgiving.

The past three decades have witnessed the largest upward transfer of wealth in human history

Personal savings rates dropped from around 10% in the 70's, to 8% or so in the 80's, to an average of about 5% in the 90's and down to the 2 to 3 percent range earlier this decade. It's axiomatic that in order to build wealth one needs to save and invest. Borrowing and spending doesn't cut it. It's no wonder the ordinary consumer hasn't amassed much wealth. The populists ought to look in the mirror instead of reflexively blaming others.

Come to think about it, why not have the Feds tax every credit card transaction, mortgages, student loans, installment contracts and every other type of consumer credit that tanked during the meltdown? I mean, heck, let's make everyone savers and investors, and let's use the tax system to do it.

And while we're discouraging speculation and over leveraging, let's repeal the home mortgage interest deduction. With the way the tax law works now, the after tax cost of mortgage financing is approaching zero. Next year, when inflation returns, the real after tax cost will be negative.

That's quite a hyperbolic (not to mention hysterical) rhetorical leap, equating a minuscule tax proposal to Soviet central planning

In the first place I was responding to the actually hyperbolic comment that trading is a zero sum game. Secondly, I've seen this tax promoted as generating $150 billion in revenue, hardly miniscule.

Nice defense of the proposal by Paul Krugman.

And, Grady, I don't know whose comment declaring all trading to be zero sum, since what I applauded was a Tobin tax on, specifically, "speculative trading":

"Given that people DO respond to incentives (as you suggest), we definitely SHOULD use Tobin taxes to take a tiny slice out of speculative trading. Since such trading creates no value (it's part of a zero-sum game) the revenue obtained is all to the good, and if anyone is discouraged from doing it, no harm done and they can find more productive ways to invest their money."

And how do you define speculative trading? It's not possible. The idealistic long run that everyone seems to want to jump immediately to is nothing more than a series of short runs adding up. Am I a speculator today if I react to the news coming out of Dubai (which I probably will in the next day or two by buying, which is a market stabilizer) or am I a rational investor? Tobin knows not of what he speaks.

As for a tiny slice, based on my typical trade the DeFazio proposal would make it $1 dollar for Fidelity and $5 for the Feds. For the big guys I would guess the 5 to 1 Feds advantage over the value creator would be 25 to 1 or more. Horrible me, thinking that proportion counts and that those kinds of ratios are socialistic and not tiny.

The economists need to get empirical and into the world of finance as well as welfare economics.

As for Krugman, he is an outstanding statistician, an excellent mathemetician and a lousy economist. There aren't enough great leaders to justify an annual Nobel Peace Prize; there aren't enough great economists to award annual economics prizes.

I hope all had a happy Thanksgiving. And thanks to all for the opportunity for the argument.

Hopefully the greed mongers won't be able to bribe their way out of this, this is a great idea.

If there was ever something that deserved to be taxed its the casino called Wall Street.

Of course they will scream and holler,
Another boondoggle, it will take away jobs, and all the other claptrap.

What do you expect them to say?
These people couldn't care less if their neighbors starve to death, as long as they get more of everything.

Screw em!

"And how do you define speculative trading? It's not possible."

Do you mean that I might not be able to define it to YOUR satisfaction, since you've determined to oppose any restriction or tax on it? Well, I'd agree with that.

The rest of us, however, could create a practical definition for speculative trading fairly easily without impeding any actual commerce or reducing liquidity in the markets.

Speaking of "needs to get into the world of finance," Krugman is far from the only one who sees the dominance of finance capitalism over all other forms of investment as the root problem of our time. See Kevin Phillips's book "Bad Money" for just one very readable one.

The stock exchanges have long since stopped being the source for investment capital and are instead just the payout windows for the well-heeled. With program trading by computers --- including computers whose sole advantage is a microsecond's advance notice of other trades --- dominating the volume of trades these days, a quarter-percent tax on the value of shares traded seems like a great idea.

stock exhanges have NEVER been a source of capital - an exchange is a secondary market - The primary market is the source of capital.

Touche' on the secondary market point.

In the last couple of years, for example, more capital was raised for financial and real estate firms privately than through TARP. Little of that private capital could have been raised had it not been for the operation of secondary markets to support its value.

Oh yes, those mean computers. Rapid-fire computer programs have reduced bid/ask spreads to a penny or less, essentially taking out the middle man - almost peer to peer. The disappearance of the spread has done for the little guy what the big guys always could always do by trading among themselves. Let's hear it for "progressives" who want to put spreads back into the system and dial back market advances.

And I don't know how to respond to an argument that raising the cost of capital doesn't impede markets.


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