Robin Hood vs. the Occupiers
We have entered a new phase of the endless Occupy Wall Street sleepover. Not working is hard work. After a month of tying up the police, generating mounds of trash, railing against Jews while holding up "Nazi Bankers" signs, grappling with pervs, rapists and thieves in their ranks, communing with avowed communists, and hobnobbing with 1 percenter celebrities donning 99 percenter costumes (phew!), the Occupiers are rallying around a new mascot:
The crime-plagued Carnival of 1,001 Demands is now focused on one unified agenda item: a soak-the-rich tax on financial transactions worldwide. The corporate-bashing Canadian magazine "Adbusters" (funded by left-wing Wall Street trader Robert Halper) initiated the Occupy Wall Street siege last summer and published a new online manifesto this week explaining the call for an October 29 "Robin Hood march":
"Across the globe the 99 percent are marching! ... It's now time to amp up the edgy theatrics ... deviant pranks, subversive performances and playful detournements of all kinds." There's been no shortage of deviance, unfortunately, what with protesters defecating on police cars, urinating on each other's tents, stealing food and phones, and exposing themselves to children. But I digress. As the movement "matures," the leaders overseeing an unruly mob in Guido Fawkes masks exhorted the masses to "occupy the core of our global system."
October 29 is the eve of the G20 Leaders Summit in France, you see, and that's the date on which Adbusters wants its followers to "rise up and demand that our G20 leaders immediately impose a 1 percent ROBIN HOOD tax on all financial transactions and currency trades." The money, say longtime champions of the tax, would go to "fund crucial action against climate change." The Occupiers' message? "We want you to slow down some of that $1.3 trillion easy money that's sloshing around the global casino each day — enough cash to fund every social program and environmental initiative in the world."
Say what? Panicked governments forked over trillions to rescue politically connected, basket-case banks, and the solution is ... punishing individual investors, creating less efficient capital markets, and spreading the wealth around to global-warming zealots and welfare-state overlords?
Rest assured, the text of the Robin Hood tax manifesto will be chanted in ignorant zombie unison — using the "human microphone" method of call and drone — in dingy occupier camps from NYC to San Francisco and every blue dot in between. Showcasing their economic illiteracy, the Occupiers remain clueless about the real-world consequences of their redistributionist claptrap. And they're ridiculously oblivious to the irony of adopting anti-tax crusader "Robin Hood" as their hero.
The ostensible intent of the anti-"greed" mob may be to reduce volatility in the market by punishing rapacious "banksters." But the ultimate outcome would be less economic growth, bigger government and more punitive costs imposed on the decidedly non-rich. A European Union commission report on the impact of such a tax shows that it would reduce GDP by 0.5 percent. U.S. economist Kenneth Rogoff explained further in a recent analysis that "the declining volume of trades would shrink the tax base precipitously. As a result, the ultimate revenue gains are likely to prove disappointing, as Sweden discovered when it attempted to tax financial transactions two decades ago."
The Association for Financial Markets in Europe found that 60 percent of trading volume in Sweden escaped to London after Sweden temporarily raised equity tax rates in the 1980s, and that the country experienced an 85 percent drop in bond trading volume, according to Financial News. The outcome was not simply less volatile trading. It was less trading, period.
The demon millionaires and billionaires whom the Occupiers seek to punish would not be the only ones to bear the costs. Over time, the burden of the Robin Hood tax would shift. Rogoff observed: "Higher transactions taxes increase the cost of capital, ultimately lowering investment. With a lower capital stock, output would trend downward, reducing government revenues and substantially offsetting the direct gain from the tax. In the long run, wages would fall, and ordinary workers would end up bearing a significant share of the cost."
The original Robin Hood tales of the Middle Ages celebrated a renegade who rose up against property rights violations and taxation abuses. His archenemies were not private traders or bankers, but the local government tax collector, the Sheriff of Nottingham and the power-grabbing ruler, Prince John. Robin Hood, in other words, was far more tea party than flea party.
In any case, if the Occupiers insist on celebrating outright theft from the haves in the name of the have-nots, perhaps they should stop complaining about the pickpockets and looters infesting their camps. Live by "social justice" nursery rhymes. Die by "social justice" crimes.
Michelle Malkin is the author of "Culture of Corruption: Obama and his Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks & Cronies" (Regnery 2010). Her e-mail address is email@example.com.