Time for a talk about taxes. We know what this means. It means those of a certain political stripe will reject the idea out of hand, regardless of its merits and regardless of the hand-in-hand arguments we make for the consideration of such a thing.
It means those of an opposing political stripe will embrace the idea with open arms and also be stone deaf regarding the hand-in-hand demands we make for the consideration of such a thing.
On such is our political gridlock built. But we’re going to make our case regardless.
There is a push to create something called a Wall Street speculation tax. It is a tiny thing, 3 cents per $100 traded on Wall Street, that its backers claim will raise $352 billion in a 10-year period.
Among its backers is a group called Democracy for America, which champions progressive causes and political candidates. Therefore, you know from whence this idea came.
The argument made for the tax, at least from this group, has punitive connotations. The tax would “ensure that bankers who make billions through computerized, speculative trading pay a price for the risk they pose to our economy.”
The argument equates Wall Street speculation with the government’s sequester cuts, something that does not compute. Wall Street has its many spectacular failings; the sequester is not among them. That is a political failing. Though because politics and big money are inextricably linked, there is at least some tangential connection that can be found.
This tax proposal is not a new one, and it has generated something like grudging support from unexpected sources.
Ian Salisbury, writing in the Wall Street Journal in January 2010 about a similar tax proposal suggested that, “Estimates suggest the proposed tax’s burden on mutual-fund investors, while real, would be smaller than other controversial fees investors have paid for years, to Wall Street rather than the government.”
An article by Charles Pope in The Oregonian on Dec. 3, 2009, shortly after Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio of that state floated the idea of such a tax, included this quote from David Hirschmann, a senior official with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce: “We need our elected officials to focus on policies that will help the business community create productivity and get people back to work. This tax will deter job creation, investment and retirement savings.”
If the tax is purely punitive, we cannot support it. If it is accompanied by expanded spending for spending’s sake, we cannot support it.
Conversely, if it is taken as a first step in a greater plan to look serious at corporate taxation, corporate subsidies, offshore tax havens, a simplified tax code and real spending reductions, then it should be given a place at the legislative table.
The arguments we presented will be ignored, unfortunately. There is no if-then in American politics. The word tax immediately causes entrenchment, and there are none willing to enter no-man’s land to see if there might actually be something worth talking about.
Lebanon Daily News