Bill Gates Champions a Financial Transactions Tax: “This Money Could Be Well Spent and Make a Difference“

While Republicans resist any attempt to address growing income inequality, more and more of America’s wealthy are asking to pay their fair share. Joining billionaire Warren Buffet, Microsoft founder Bill Gates recently issued his support for “millionaires and billionaires” paying more in taxes.

Now, Gates is taking it a step further and traveling to the G-20 meeting in Cannes, France today to champion the “Robin Hood tax” — a small financial transaction tax on each stock and bond trade — in order to help financially strapped developed nations meet their global aid pledges to the poor. Aware that countries like the U.S. are not currently receptive to this or any taxes, Gates told the Guardian that hopes his “credibility” lends credence to the idea that such taxes work:

Speaking to the Guardian on the eve of the summit, Gates said: “It is very plausible that certain kinds of FTTs could work. I am lending some credibility to that. This money could be well spent and make a difference. An FTT is more possible now than it was a year ago, but it won’t be at rates that magically raise gigantic sums of money.” […]

[His] report identifies an FTT as one of three ways of raising money. Gates will tell the G20 that it could garner almost $11bn for health aid projects if all members levied tobacco excise taxes of at least 70% of the pack price and earmarked a slice of the revenue for development. Small taxes on shipping and aviation fuel could raise $37bn and $27bn respectively, the report says.

Gates is not alone in his effort. Yesterday, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) introduced legislation that proposes a 0.03 percent tax on financial transactions that could raise $150 billion to “invest in our future, our infrastructure and our middle class.” As TP Economy editor Pat Garofalo notes, the tax — which has been embraced by the Occupy Wall Street protests, the governments of France and Germany, and even the Archbishop of Canterbury — could raise serious revenue while slowing down some of the high frequency trading that “mega-banks like Goldman Sachs employ to churn up quick profits.”

DeFazio told ThinkProgress that while Gates’ stated purpose for the tax may be different, he welcomes Gates’ support for an idea already proven to work. He noted that the United Kingdom already imposes a 0.25 percent transaction tax on the sale or purchase of stocks which, as Center For Economic Policy and Research notes, “has very little impact on people who buy stock with the intent of holding it for a long period of time” but will deter those who high frequency trades that exacerbate or lead to market crashes. The policy helps return Wall Street to its days as a place “where people with good ideas go to raise capital” for production rather than a place for “gambling” schemes, said DeFazio.