Quick Hit Ellyn Fortino Thursday August 4th, 2016, 6:29pm

Experts: Financial Transaction Tax A 'Win-Win For U.S. Economy'

A financial transaction tax would help Wall Street work for Main Street, experts at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute (EPI) argue in a new report.

In light of the Democratic Party endorsing a financial transaction tax in its platform, EPI's report details how much revenue such a policy could raise, putting the figure anywhere between $110 billion to $403 billion annually.

The tax would impose a small levy on trades of stocks, bonds, derivatives and other financial transactions.

EPI's Josh Bivens and Hunter Blair examined a financial transaction tax "rate of 0.5 percent on stock trades, bond trades, and options premiums, and 0.05 percent on the notional value of futures, swaps, and foreign exchange."

The experts say a well-designed financial transaction tax, dubbed by supporters as a "Robin Hood" tax, could both generate revenue in a progressive manner and curb "inefficient or unnecessary transactions."

"Regardless of the level of revenues raised, an FTT would be a win-win for the U.S. economy," the report states. "Higher revenues would result in more funds for social insurance programs and much-needed public investments. Lower revenues would be the result of the FTT crowding out financial transactions of little value to the U.S. economy. This would boost Americans' incomes through lowering fees on financial services, such as the management of 401(k)s and other accounts."

Dean Baker, co-director of the progressive Center for Economic and Policy Research, also released a report last week about a financial transaction tax.

Baker estimates that the policy could generate over $105 billion in annual revenue, with the financial industry shouldering the full amount of the tax. His research is based on a proposed tax of 0.2 percent on stock trades, 0.1 percent on bonds and 0.002 percent on derivatives. 

"The evidence compiled in this report indicates that it should be possible to raise a substantial amount of revenue from an FTT, without disturbing the finance sector's ability to serve the productive economy," Baker asserts. 

The reports come after the Democratic Party added a financial transaction tax to its platform, which states: "We support a financial transactions tax on Wall Street to curb excessive speculation and high-frequency trading, which has threatened financial markets. We acknowledge that there is room within our party for a diversity of views on a broader financial transactions tax."

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has expressed support for a "high-frequency trading tax."  The tax, according to her campaign, "would hit HFT strategies involving excessive levels of order cancellations, which make our markets less stable and less fair."

The Green Party, which is holding its 2016 convention this Thursday through Sunday, endorses a "financial transaction tax on trades of stocks, bonds, currency, derivatives, and other financial instruments" in its 2014 platform.

Most Republicans oppose a financial transaction tax, as does the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association. Among other concerns, the association claims that a financial transaction tax would "impede the efficiency of markets, impair depth and liquidity of financial instruments, and raise costs to the issuers, pensions and investors who help drive economic growth."

On tax issues, Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson wants to replace the current federal tax system with a single consumption tax.

Proposals for a financial transaction tax are pending at the federal level, though they are unlikely to go anywhere in the Republican-controlled Congress. 

Last year, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) put forward a measure to impose a financial transaction tax of 0.5 percent on stocks, 0.1 percent on bonds, and 0.005 percent on derivatives. Sanders has proposed using the revenue to cover a debt-free college plan.

More recently, U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR,4) introduced legislation last month seeking to tax transactions of stocks, bonds and derivatives at 0.03 percent. The plan would reportedly raise $417 billion over ten years, "which could be used to fund national priorities such as free higher education or job-creating infrastructure repair," according to a news release from DeFazio's office. 

"Thanks to the reckless greed of Wall Street over the past few decades, the American economy is a grossly unbalanced playing field," DeFazio said in a statement. "The only way we can level it is if we rein in reckless speculative financial trading and curb near-instantaneous high-volume trades that create instability in the stock market and our national economy. These financial practices have no intrinsic value, and exist to make a quick buck for already-wealthy speculators. If we want to give middle-class families a fair shot at a strong economy that works for all Americans, we need to put Main Street FIRST."

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