A Simple Reform Could Save America From Wall Street and Boost the Economy: What’s Washington Waiting For?
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Another argument you hear is that regular folks would be hurt when they do things like make transactions on their 401(k)s or use a debit card. But this is nonsense. The tax would not apply to normal consumer activities, and traders could also be legally blocked from dumping costs onto consumers. The FTT is about giant banks and investment firms — behemoth companies like Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan, and Goldman Sachs. Not you and me. Some huff that high-frequency traders will simply leave the country if we slow them down. Here’s an idea: can we help you pack? Seriously, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
Many industrial nations already have some form of FTT, including Hong Kong and Singapore. Some members of the European Union have tried to push ahead with an FTT, but it has gotten caught in the complicated web of the European legal framework. Naturally, the big financial firms have lobbied relentlessly to block it and convince the media (much of which relies on advertising dollars from Big Finance) that it’s a bad idea. They’ve succeeded in getting the tax’s effective date pushed into the middle of 2014.
Over on this side of the Atlantic, you may have heard that bank CEOs having been meeting with the president during the shutdown. It’s not hard to imagine what they had to say: Just carve another pound of flesh from the American populace in the form of cuts to Medicare and Social Security, and leave us to make our billions at their expense. Protect Big Finance at any cost. So far, Obama has done pretty much just that. He has surrounded himself with economic advisors, like Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers who have played Santa Claus to bankers and oppose the FTT. Current Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew is against the tax and gives us the official White House position: "The administration has consistently opposed a financial transaction tax on the grounds that it would be vulnerable to evasion, create incentives for financial re-engineering and burden retail investors.” Which is all a big pile of baloney.
So is there any hope? Much of Congress, attentive only to the drumbeat from Wall Street, has turned a deaf ear to the idea, despite a recent proposal from Sen. Tom Harkin and Rep. Peter DeFazio. The bottom line is that we need people in Washington willing to challenge banks. You could take Elizabeth Warren’s election to the Senate as a sign that we might finally be getting somewhere. She is a very popular politician, and if she were to get behind the FTT, there could actually be a chance of getting it passed.
In the meantime, we really need to mob our representatives with messages of support for the FTT. Flood them with letters, emails, and phone calls. Make noise. Tell them that if they are not willing to champion the public good, they will not get your vote.
And if the President dares to move forward with cuts to social programs, public services, Medicare, and Social Security while such a strong, sane idea as the FTT is supported by the population, well, maybe it’s time to take to the streets.