Pelosi Endorses ‘Global’ Tax on Stocks, Bonds, and other Financial Transactions
December 4, 2009 - 6:14 PMHouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) endorsed the idea of a "global" tax on stock trades and other financial transactions, saying the estimated $150 billion in annual revenue from such a tax could be used to help fund more stimulus spending.
At her weekly press briefing on Thursday, Pelosi said the financial transactions tax (HR4191) currently before Congress would have to be made “global” to keep U.S. investors from taking their business overseas and out of taxable reach.
The House speaker said that a transaction tax could be imposed in conjunction with congressional efforts to divert funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), with funds from both going to fund a second stimulus spending package. (The first stimulus bill, $789-billion, was signed into law by President Barack Obama on Feb. 13, 2009.)
“I believe that the transaction tax still has a great deal of merit,” Pelosi told reporters. “The concern that many of us or others have had is that it will send, it will send transactions overseas.
“Well, let's see, the fact is, what we are talking about is a global transaction [tax],” she said, “something that we would do in conjunction with other G nations, whether it is G8, G20, whatever the current G number is. Because it is really a source of revenue that has really minimal impact on the transaction, but a tremendous impact on helping us meet our needs.”
Pelosi said she thought the idea might have currency among a public eager to see Wall Street firms “pitching in” to help the government grow the economy.
“I think there would be a market for it among the American people to say that we are all participating in the economic prosperity of our country, and we are all pitching in to continue that prosperity,” said Pelosi.
The tax idea, the brainchild of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, would mean that all major financial centers – Asia, the EU, U.S., and U.K. – would all have to pass a similar transaction tax to avoid disadvantaging one country’s stock exchange. This would ensure that no matter where a person wanted to buy stock, they would have to pay the new tax.
Brown originally proposed the idea on Nov. 7 at a meeting of G20 finance ministers in St. Andrews, Scotland.
The American version, H.R. 4191, introduced by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), would levy a separate tax on all stock trades, futures contracts, swaps, credit default swaps, and stock options in an effort to tap the trillions of dollars of such transactions.
Seeking to circumvent concerns about further deficit spending on stimulus programs, the bill attempts to raise approximately $150 billion every year.
“The jobless recovery suggests that the Federal Government must continue to prime the economy, but the record deficit is a real obstacle,” the bill reads.
“To restore Main Street America, a small securities tax on Wall Street should be invested in job creation for Main Street,” says the bill. “This transfer tax would be assessed on the sale and purchase of financial instruments such as stocks, options, and futures. A quarter percent (0.25 percent) tax on financial instruments could raise approximately $150,000,000,000 a year.”
The transaction tax proposal was met with opposition from some House Democrats, who signed a “Dear Colleague” letter outlining their opposition to the tax and urging other members of Congress to join them.
“A $150 billion tax on financial transactions will fall on millions of hardworking Americans who are saving for their future through their 401k plans, mutual funds, pensions and other savings vehicles,” wrote Reps. Michael McMahon (D-N.Y.), Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), and Debbie Halvorson (D-Ill.) in the letter, which is still being circulated on Capitol Hill, a copy of which was obtained by CNSNews.com.
“Supporters of the proposal promote it as a way to make Wall Street pay for economic stimulus, because it would apply only to stocks, futures, forwards and derivatives,” the letter states.
“In reality, it would be a tax on all investment and savings vehicles because mutual funds and money market fund transactions are, by definition, purchases and sales of securities and bonds,” it added.
The three Democrats said that the American version of the proposal would not exempt middle class Americans, as it claims to do, because while the tax would be paid by major stock brokers, those brokers would pass the cost down to everyday investors, pension, and retirement funds.
“Proponents of a transaction tax argue that a small 0.25 percent tax on stocks would be paid for by the highly paid financial traders and would not affect most Americans,” reads the letter. “This is simply not true. A tax on stock transactions would affect every single person who owns and invests in stocks from small business owners to senior citizens.”
“Americans saving for their retirement, to pay for college or ‘a rainy day fund’ to meet future emergencies will be subjected to a tax that will reduce the value of their savings at a time when they are just starting to recover the losses they incurred at the height of the financial crisis,” the letter states.
Pelosi’s office did not return calls for comment on this story.