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ROBERT B. REICH is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fourteen books, including the best sellers “Aftershock”, “The Work of Nations,” and"Beyond Outrage,“ and, his most recent, "Saving Capitalism.” He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, INEQUALITY FOR ALL.
Updated: 4 hours 16 min ago
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Why a Tax on Wall Street Trades is an Even Better Idea Than You Know
One of Bernie Sanders’s most important proposals didn’t receive enough attention and should become a law even without a president Sanders. Hillary Clinton should adopt it for her campaign.
It’s a tax on financial transactions.
Putting a small tax on financial transactions would:
1. reduce incentives for high speed trading, insider deal making and short term financial betting.
Buying and selling stocks and bonds in order to beat others who are
buying stocks and bonds is a giant zero sum game. It wastes countless
resources, uses up the talents of some of the nation’s best and
brightest and subjects financial markets to unnecessary risk.
2. generate lots of revenue. Even a one tenth of 1% transaction tax would raise $185 billion over 10 years according to the non-partisan Tax Policy Center. It could thereby finance public investments that enlarge the economic pie rather than merely rearranging its slices. Investments like better schools and access to college.
3. it’s fair. After all, Americans pay sales taxes on all sorts of goods and services, yet Wall Street traders pay no sales tax on the stocks and bonds they buy, which helps explain why the financial industry generates about 30% of America’s corporate profits, but pays only about 18% of corporate taxes.
Wall Street’s objections are baloney.
Wall Street says even a small transaction tax on financial transactions would drive trading overseas since financial trades can easily be done elsewhere.
Baloney. The U.K. has had a tax on stock trades for decades, yet remains one of the world’s financial powerhouses. Incidentally, that tax raises about 3 billion pounds yearly. That’s the equivalent of 30 billion in an economy the size of the United States, which is a big help for Britain’s budget. At least 28 other countries also have such a tax and the European Union is well on the way to implementing one.
Wall Street also claims that the tax would burden small investors such as as retirees, business owners and average savers.
Wrong again. The tax wouldn’t be a burden if it reduces the volume and frequency of trading, which is the whole point. In fact, the tax is highly progressive. The Tax Policy Center estimates that 75% of it would be paid by the richest 5th of taxpayers and 40% by the top 1%.
So, why aren’t politicians of all stripes supporting it? Because the financial transactions tax directly threatens a major source of Wall Street’s revenue. And if you hadn’t noticed, the Street uses a portion of its vast revenues to gain political clout. Which may be one of the best reasons for enacting it.
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BERNIE’S 7 LEGACIES
Bernie Sanders’s campaign is now officially over, but the movement he began is still just beginning. He’s provided it seven big legacies:
First, Bernie has helped open America’s eyes to the power of big money corrupting our democracy and thereby rigging our economy to its advantage and everyone else’s disadvantage.
Polls now show huge majorities of Americans think moneyed interests have too much sway in Washington. And thanks, in large part, to Bernie’s campaign, progressives on Capitol Hill are readying a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, and bills requiring full disclosure of donors, ending gerrymandering, and providing automatic voter registration.
None of these will get anywhere in a Republican-controlled Congress, but they will give progressives a powerful theme for the upcoming election. It’s called democracy.
Second, Bernie has shown that it’s possible to win elections without depending on big money from corporations, Wall Street, and billionaires. He came close to winning the Democratic nomination on the basis of millions of small donations from average working people. No longer can a candidate pretend to believe in campaign finance reform but say they have to take big money because their opponent does.
Third, Bernie has educated millions of Americans about why we must have a single-payer health-care system and free tuition at public universities, and why we must resurrect the Glass-Steagall Act and bust up the biggest banks. These issues will be front and center in every progressive campaign from here out, at all levels of American politics.
Fourth,the Sanders campaign has brought millions of young people into politics, ignited their energy and enthusiasm and idealism.
Fifth, the movement Bernie ignited has pushed Hillary Clinton to take more progressive positions on issues ranging from the minimum wage to the Trans Pacific Partnership, the XL Pipeline, Wall Street, and Social Security.
Sixth, he’s taught Americans how undemocratic the Democratic Party’s system for picking candidates really is. Before Bernie’s candidacy, not many people were paying attention to so-called “super-delegates” or whether independents could vote, or how primary elections and caucuses were run. From now on, people will pay attention. And the Democratic National Committee will be under pressure to make fundamental changes.
Seventh is the real possibility Bernie has inspired of a third party – if the Democratic Party doesn’t respond to the necessity of getting big money out of politics and reversing widening inequality, if it doesn’t begin to advocate for a single-payer healthcare system, or push hard for higher taxes on the wealthy - including a wealth tax - to pay for better education and better opportunities for everyone else, if it doesn’t expand Social Security and lift the cap on income subject to the Social Security payroll tax, if it doesn’t bust up the biggest banks and strengthen antitrust laws, and expand voting rights.
If it doesn’t act on these critical issues. the Democratic Party will become irrelevant to the future of America, and a third party will emerge to address them.
Bernie, we thank you for your courage, your inspiration, your tireless dedication, and your vision. And we will continue the fight.
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The Five Principles of Patriotism
We talk a lot about Patriotism, especially around July 4th, but we need also to take to heart its five basic principles.
First: True patriotism isn’t simply about waving the American flag. And it’s not mostly about securing our borders, putting up walls and keeping others out.
It’s about coming together for the common good.
Second: Real patriotism is not cheap. It requires taking on a fair share of the burdens of keeping America going – being willing to pay taxes in full rather than seeking tax loopholes and squirreling away money abroad. Not just voting but becoming politically active, volunteering time and energy to improving this country.
Third: Patriotism is about preserving, fortifying, and protecting our democracy, not inundating it with big money and buying off politicians. It means defending the right to vote and ensuring more Americans are heard, not fewer.
Fourth: True patriots don’t hate the government of the United States. They’re proud of their country and know the government is a tool to help us solve problems together. They may not like everything it does, and they justifiably worry when special interests gain too much power over it. But true patriots work to improve our government, not destroy it.
Finally, patriots don’t pander to divisiveness. They don’t fuel racist or religious or ethnic divisions. They aren’t homophobic or sexist or racist.
To the contrary, true patriots seek to confirm and strengthen and celebrate the “we” in “we the people of the United States.”
Have a happy and safe Fourth of July.