James Pethokoukis

Politics and policy from inside Washington

What happened to Obama’s bank tax?

October 5, 2010

Via my Breakingviews opinion-torial:

Detecting a political pulse on the proposed U.S. bank tax is hard. Yet bankers still fret a revival. They know Congress, eager to pay for expiring tax cuts, sees them as a pool of ready cash. And even if Wall Street dodges that bullet, the cost of rescuing mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac may still shock the levy back to life.

Britain and Germany have already introduced such taxes to reduce risk taking. And many in Europe would like to go further and implement a financial transactions fee if major economies could agree to take the plunge jointly. But the idea is nowhere on the U.S. public policy radar, especially with the Treasury Department opposed.

Even the Obama administration’s previously announced bank tax is an iffy proposition. The 10-year, $90 billion “crisis responsibility fee” was directed at banks with over $50 billion in assets. Institutions that took more risk and more “hot money” would also pay more. But it wasn’t included in the summer’s financial reform bill for fear of scaring away Republican support. In any case, the original concept was designed as a way to recoup losses on the bank bailout. The latest estimates scaled those back dramatically to less than $50 billion.

The tax received a second life as a way to help pay for various expiring tax cuts for individuals. But Congress didn’t get around to acting on those. Lawmakers might yet move during the upcoming “lame duck” session, making big banks nervous. If Congress wants to pay for various tax cuts, nicking Wall Street and other banks would be one way to do it.

It’s a long shot. But not long enough to keep America’s community bankers from firing off a fresh letter on Friday opposing any bank levy or fee. Although Republicans loathe the idea, the government remains on the hook for $150 billion of aid to Fannie and Freddie. When Washington gets around to figuring out what do with those troubled enterprises – probably after the 2012 election – the bank tax may reemerge as a way of covering losses. Maybe it isn’t so much dead as it is in suspended animation.

Comments

We need to make those who were careless with their money and careless with other people’s money to pay for the damage they caused.
There should be a 50% tax on the pay of every executive in every institution which was bailed out by taxpayers. There should also be a transaction tax on every trade, especially in those credit default swap types of gambling so we can be ready for the next time they are both stupid and “too big to fail”.

Posted by cashman57 | Report as abusive
 

Post Your Comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
  •