Trio Of Democrats Introduce Legislation To Tax Financial Transactions

Photo via @slarson83

A trio of Democratic lawmakers today introduced legislation to institute a small tax on financial transactions, a proposal that would reduce volatility in financial markets and raise substantial revenue for the federal government. Under the plan from Sens. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), financial trades would be subject to a 0.03 percent tax, which they say would raise approximately $352 billion in revenue over the next decade.

Such a tax would slow down high-frequency trading that poses a threat to the health of financial markets while also incentivizing investment that drives economic growth. Opponents argue that the tax would slow down growth, but DeFazio told ThinkProgress last year that those claims are unfounded. “For 50 years we had a tax that was about seven times larger than this when the country was seeing the greatest growth in its history, post-World War II,” he said. “So we’ve proven this will not have a detrimental impact on growth. In fact, it perhaps is beneficial to growth. It’s not necessarily beneficial to salaries of hedge fund managers on Wall Street.”

“This commonsense proposal will raise billions in new revenue to get rid of the sequester or reduce the deficit while also discouraging the kind of reckless high-volume trading that contributed to the financial crash in 2008,” Whitehouse said.

11 European countries recently announced that they will institute a financial transactions tax, and Britain, which taxes stock and bond trades but does not tax more complex trades involving derivatives and swaps, is open to expanding its tax as well, Labour Party MP Chris Leslie said last week. “I don’t see any evidence that there would be a negative effect on economic growth,” Leslie said. “In fact, quite the opposite.”

Harkin and DeFazio have introduced the transactions tax in the past, but it has not received support from Treasury or President Obama. Many consumer groups and business and financial leaders, however, have offered support for the tax. “A modest financial transaction tax of less than 1 percent would serve as a remarkably efficient tool to achieve needed reform,” John Fullerton, a former director at JP Morgan Chase, wrote in 2011.