Krugman Goes for the Tobin Tax

So, we have another Nobel Prize winner who argues that a small tax on financial transactions in order to generate revenue for stimulus and to discourage speculation is a good thing.

He also lays some whup-ass on Timothy “Eddie Haskell” Geithner for his opposition to the idea, which is a good thing, and further notes that much of the short term leverage that nearly destroyed the world financial system was an artifact of rapid fire speculative trades.

One item of note is that Krugman makes a very good point about the fact, notwithstanding the claims of opponents, it will be difficult for anyone to avoid paying the tax:

The main argument made by opponents of a financial transactions tax is that it would be unworkable, because traders would find ways to avoid it. Some also argue that it wouldn’t do anything to deter the socially damaging behavior that caused our current crisis. But neither claim stands up to scrutiny.

On the claim that financial transactions can’t be taxed: modern trading is a highly centralized affair. Take, for example, Tobin’s original proposal to tax foreign exchange trades. How can you do this, when currency traders are located all over the world? The answer is, while traders are all over the place, a majority of their transactions are settled — i.e., payment is made — at a single London-based institution. This centralization keeps the cost of transactions low, which is what makes the huge volume of wheeling and dealing possible. It also, however, makes these transactions relatively easy to identify and tax.

This is true. While I might, find a local vendor on the street to exchange currency in Cairo, Egypt, because I could beat the official rate, and avoid a tax of less than ¼%, if I were trading millions of dollars, I need to have a place where I can settle the transactions, and taxes would be assessed there.

It would be hard to implement without the US being on board, which is where the real rub is.

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