Representative Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on May 22 introduced the Inclusive Prosperity Act along with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and more than a dozen House Democrats.
The legislation imposes a tax of a fraction of a percent on the trades of stocks, bonds, and derivatives. This tax on Wall Street speculation, also known as a financial transaction tax, is estimated to generate up to $2.4 trillion in public revenue from wealthy investors over 10 years. An added benefit of the proposed tax is deterring the high-frequency trading that increases the instability of the financial sector and produces no economic value.
Wall Street enjoys record-breaking profits despite its role in triggering the financial crisis of 2008. The top 400 richest Americans now own more wealth than 150 million Americans—60 percent of the country. Meanwhile, a typical middle-class family in America has seen its net worth decline by 30 percent from 2007 to 2016. More than 1,000 economists have endorsed a tax on financial speculation, and 40 countries currently impose the tax, including Britain, which first instituted the tax on stock trades in 1694.
“I am proud to introduce the House version of the Inclusive Prosperity because taxing Wall Street is not an extreme idea. The government already taxes everyday families for basic items like food, clothes, and housing. Wall Street gets away with no taxes, even when conducting high-risk financial transactions,” said Barbara Lee. “This has to stop. It’s past time to make sure Wall Street pays their fair share so that we can provide funding for things that make us a better nation like jobs, housing, infrastructure, and college education.”
“While the top 23 banks in America received over $20 billion in tax breaks last year as a result of the Trump tax plan, hundreds of thousands of young people are unable to go to college because they can’t afford it, 34 million Americans have no health insurance, one out of five Americans can’t afford to buy the medicine prescribed by their doctors, over 40 million Americans are living in poverty, we have the highest childhood poverty rate in the developed world and life expectancy in the U.S. has gone down for the third year in a row,” said Sanders. “It is long past time for Congress to rein in the recklessness of Wall Street billionaires and build an economy that works for all Americans.”
The legislation sets different rates on stocks, bonds, and derivatives based on the existing transaction costs in each market—0.5 percent for stocks, 0.1 percent for bonds, and 0.005 for derivatives. This more targeted approach roughly equalizes the increase in transaction costs across securities due to the tax and thus reduces the economic distortions and tax avoidance possibilities created by it.