Public Citizen debates Chamber of Commerce on speculation tax

Last Friday, David Arkush, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, went on CNBC to take on the corporate lobby’s spin about the effects of a tax on Wall Street’s speculative activities.

The European Union is moving forward with measures to curb the kind of risky, reckless financial speculation that led to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Much to the dismay of Wall Street fat cats eager to maintain an unsustainable status quo, similar measures have also been proposed in the U.S.

Not surprisingly, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce wants to scare the public away from measures restoring any kind of accountability to the big banks and financial speculators.  

The Chamber’s spokesperson talks about how the tax will hurt middle class investors. But the measures that have been proposed in the U.S. — Rep. Peter DeFazio’s “Let Wall Street Pay for the Restoration of Main Street Act,” (H.R. 4191) and Sen. Tom Harkin’s “The Wall Street Fair Share Act” (S. 2927) – provide exemptions for nearly all the transactions that middle class investors are likely to undertake. Trades by 401(k)s and other tax-sheltered accounts would be exempted from the tax, as would trades by pension funds. Learn more about the proposed financial speculation tax here and from the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Arkush points out that we already pay a big speculation tax: Excessive speculation brought the economy to the brink of collapse, leading the government to use trillions of taxpayer dollars to bail out and support large financial institutions that engaged in risky behavior. That’s the wrong kind of speculation tax.  The right kind would curb excessive speculation, preventing it from undermining the economy, and raise revenue for important things like job creation. Arkush also points out that, contrary to the Chamber’s argument, that the financial speculation tax would target the super-rich.

“Wall Street should pay for the trillions of dollars of public supports it has received to continue operation, and it should pay for the massive damage it has inflicted on the national and global economy,” said Public Citizen’s president, Robert Weissman.

It’s time for Wall Street to pay its fair share.