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European Union moves towards financial speculation tax: Why U.S. should follow

Note: In the 112th Congress, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) introduced the Wall Street Trading and Speculators Tax Act. The nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation said the bill would raise more than $350 billion over 10 years through a miniscule fee on Wall Street transactions.

On Tuesday, European Union finance ministers took a giant step toward implementing a financial speculation tax. Eleven European governments – led by Germany, France, Italy and Spain – voted to approve a fee on the sale or transfer of stock, bonds and derivatives.

The fee will raise significant revenues for those countries’ ailing economies. It also will cut down on the kind of wasteful, predatory and speculative trading activities that have harmed financial markets.

Policymakers in the United States should act now to implement a similar policy so we don’t fall behind the rest of the world.

Sen. Harkin and Rep. DeFazio plan to re-introduce their bill in the coming weeks. Public Citizen urges the rest of Congress to immediately endorse the legislation.

One of the biggest industry criticisms of the financial speculation tax is that it would increase trading costs, which would cause trading to flow overseas. But with 11 countries appearing willing to implement an even higher tax than the one proposed by Sen. Harkin and Rep. DeFazio, that argument is swiftly becoming meritless.

Micah Hauptman is Public Citizen’s financial reform organizer