Sunday, September 28, 2008

Smart thoughts on a bail-out

I does be likin' dis from Thom Hartmann:

For Grover "Drown Government In The Bathtub" Norquist, this bailout deal will work out very well. At a proposed cost of $4,780 per taxpayer, it'll further the David Stockman strategy of so indebting us that the next president won't have the luxury of even thinking of new social spending (expanding health care, social security, education, infrastructure, etc.); taxes will even have to be raised just to pay for the bailout. It'll debase our currency, driving up commodity prices and interest rates, which will benefit the Investor Class while further impoverishing the pesky Middle Class, rendering them less prone to protest (because they're so busy working trying to pay off their debt). It'll create stagflation for at least the next half decade, which can be blamed on Democrats who currently control Congress and, should Obama be elected, be blamed on him.

But there's another way: Create an agency to fund the bailout, loan that agency the money from the treasury, and then have that agency tax Wall Street to pay us (the treasury) back.

It's been done before, and has several benefits.

He is advocating a STET - a Securities Turnover Excise Tax - a small tax on trading. 

He lists out a whole bunch of nice-sounding benefits.  He explains how this has been done before and is done now by a few nations - UK and Taiwan for example.  He also explains how it's been done time and again to pay for needed programs, right here in the US.  He explains how, in the first year, a tax of 0.25% - one quarter of one percent - could raise $150 billion.  And how, post-paying for the bail-out, such a tax could support national healthcare. 

I can hear those free market evangelists howling already.  :-)

Where to start?

Look.  Globalization is real, ok, the world is speeding up, it's smaller, it's flatter, and there's a whole hell of a lot of money to be made out there.  For those who have access to it.  Aside from that last sentence, this is the meme that's been driving most Americans' acceptance of the good, and even the need, of globalization.  However, I don't think most Americans think they've seen anything by way of benefit, unless you count the table crumbs of lower prices at Walmart that we all enjoy.  Yes, enjoy.  Sheesh.

But I think Hartmann puts it well, drawing the distinction between the 'investor class' and the 'middle class'.  The investor class has access to the gains of globalization. 

And that investor class is now about to pawn its losses off on the people.  Imagine - make Wall Street pay for itself!  Pull its own load!

What else....

I love his point about speculation v. investment.  Speculators try to make profits on the margin, small profits, in the shortterm.  Money to be made here is only going to be made by those have time to spend on playing the market and those who have enough money that small gains can be multiplied by large investments.  Investors try to find good companies to, you know, invest their money in.  Speculators don't pay to gamble, as of now, unless they lose, and even then, if they can lose big enough - the people will pay.  A side benefit to the tax is that it discourages, in a small way, the speculation - so it encourages longer term investing, helps stabilize markets, and even small investors can invest in a compay.

He also gives a history of bailouts - and their generally poor, poor track record.  He doesn't think the taxpayers will get much money back on their bailout.

Finally, I also like the name of the tax - Securities Turnover Excise Tax - the word 'excise'.  Like with alcohol, for example, to tax something as a vice of sorts and thus mildly discourage it. 


K said...

That's not a bad idea - it sounds similar to what this article on Sweden discusses:

I think he may be drawing a false distinction, though, between the middle class and the investor class. The number of people who speculate is very small compared to the number of people who invest, and most middle-class workers invest to some degree. But there's an ongoing problem with people not saving enough for retirement as it is, so I think a STET would have to be handled very, very carefully as to not discourage saving. I mean, I'm not counting on Social Security being there, but I'm afraid some people still are. All in all, though, Hartmann's plan looks good.

And about those free-market evangelists: When are they going to learn that, with so much deregulation, the market is controlled by people, and that most people are scum? Arg.

Think Mps said...

I think it's a fair distinction. Most people invest, either directly or through their 401K, pension, etc. But few people speculate - that is a game reserved for those who have time and money for it.