Bloomberg Doesn’t Like Financial Speculation Taxes and Is Prepared To Make Stuff Up to Make Its Case

Bloomberg Doesn’t Like Financial Speculation Taxes and Is Prepared To Make Stuff Up to Make Its Case

Dean Baker
Thursday, 29 September 2011 14:36

Bloomberg News Service really doesn’t like financial speculation taxes (FST). In fact it dislikes them so much that it is prepared to make things up to try to get people to oppose an FST. It told readers that the very low financial speculation taxes (0.05 percent on each side of a stock trade 0.005 percent on each side of a derivative trade) being considered by the European Union would shave 0.5 percentage points off of Europe’s growth rate.

Let’s think about this one for a moment. In the last three decades, the cost of trading shares of stock and derivatives has almost certainly fallen by at least twice this much. If the increase in the cost of trading from this tax would slow growth by 0.5 percentage points, then we should expect that a decline in costs of more than twice this size would raise annual growth by perhaps as much a 1.0 percentage point.

Since growth has been very weak in this last decade of low trading costs, does Bloomberg really want to tell its readers that it would have been 1.0 percentage point lower if there had not been a decline in transactions costs?

What about the UK which already has a tax on stock trades that is 5 times the size of the tax being considered by the EU. (This tax somehow appears as a “small duty” in the Bloomberg piece.) Since the UK tax is 5 times as large as the one that Bloomberg tells us would slow growth by 0.5 percentage points, does Bloomberg want us to believe that the UK’s growth rate might increase by 2.5 percentage points (5*0.5 percentage points), if the UK eliminated its stock transfer tax?

Of course these claims are absurd on their face as is the claim that the tax could possibly have an impact on growth of the order of magnitude claimed by Bloomberg. This is clearly a case of Bloomberg making stuff up to put down a measure it doesn’t like.

And we know that people resort to making phony arguments when they know they don’t have real arguments. So, we should all extend a big thank you to Bloomberg News Service.

AP Says a Financial Speculation Tax Could Lead to an Attack By Martians

Dean Baker
Wednesday, 28 September 2011 21:34

Close, but not quite; citing no evidence whatsoever, an AP article on plans to impose a financial spepculation tax told readers that:

“though the tax could dent growth and employment, it has won a fair degree of support across the 17-country eurozone, including France and Germany, the EU’s two biggest economies.”

This should have caused readers to scratch their heads and some people at AP to get fired.

Okay, we know that rich and powerful people don’t like the idea of taxing financial speculation. A serious news article would just tell us that rich and powerful people don’t like taxing financial speculation, it would not just make things up about the tax slowing growth and job creation as this piece does.

The reality is that the tax rates being discussed would just raise the cost of financial transactions back to where they were in the 80s or even the 90s. Perhaps AP’s reporters/editors don’t have any knowledge of these decades, but we had plenty of growth and job creation back then. If the lower transactions costs of the last 15-20 years have helped growth it would be hard to find evidence for this in the data.