By Ralph Nader
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is basking in the popularity of his meticulous Covid-19 news briefings and simultaneously predicting a pandemic-driven $61 billion state deficit over four years. Astonishingly, the Governor electronically rebates an existing tiny stock transfer sales tax back to Wall Street. This stock transfer sales tax, bringing in an estimated 13 to 16 billion dollars a year, would reduce forthcoming budget cuts in health, education, transportation, and other safety nets.
No Governor in the country has the luxury of simply keeping very significant tax revenues that are already collected to avoid cutting necessities of life. Yet Governor Cuomo has supported these rebates for the past ten years, as have previous New York state Governors all the way back to 1981 when this early 20th-century tax stopped being retained in the state’s treasury. As much as a staggering $250 billion dollars has been immediately returned to the stockbrokers over that time period.
Bear in mind, a fraction of one percent of this tiny sales tax is paid by the investors buying stocks, bonds, and engaging in massive volumes of derivative speculation. Since the great bulk of trading is conducted by upper-income people and large companies, this sales tax, unlike the regressive 8 percent sales tax ordinary New Yorkers pay when they buy from stores, is progressive in its impact.
So why hasn’t the media taken this eminently timely and newsworthy story to the people? I’ve been explaining this surrender to Wall Street for years. Most recently, given its timeliness, calling up reporters and columnists of major press outlets, but to no avail; with the exception of the Buffalo News. This indifference is inexplicable. After all, Governor Cuomo regularly talks about drastic budget cuts.
Well, a new factor may change this equation. Blair Horner, a longtime, prominent director of the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), an influential university college student-funded civic advocacy group is now on the case.
On May 28, 2020, Mr. Horner held a virtual news conference in Albany, presented a letter signed by over fifty labor, consumer, women’s, educational, minority, health, taxpayer, elderly, and justice organizations – all calling on the Governor to keep the many billions of dollars from the stock transfer tax. The number of New York groups supporting this proposal will only grow. Attentively advanced by the seasoned Horner and his team, a detailed news release was distributed and several speakers, including me, briefly spoke. At question time, only a Newsday reporter asked about Wall Street’s reaction.
A half-hour later, no reporter asked Governor Cuomo during his long daily briefings about keeping the collected revenues. The next day there was no media coverage of this event and the benefits the revenue could have for communities whose members will be bearing the brunt of avoidable service cuts and job losses.
Every day New York state rebates about $40 million to an upper-economic class, already further enriched by Trump’s 2017 tax bonanza. Nor have these privileged plutocrats shared, via a wealth tax, a fraction of the sacrifice of New York’s 2.2 million front-line Covid-19 workers. Shameful!
Bills mandating the retention of this stock sales tax are already in the state legislature. A prime sponsor, Assemblyman Phil Steck believes that there will be overwhelming left/right support in the polls.
However, the legislature’s leaders await the signal from a thus far reluctant Governor Cuomo. But not, I suspect for long.
With Wall Street’s Robert Rubin and Michael Bloomberg coming out for a financial transaction tax (thanks probably to the Bernie Sanders movement), can the son of Mario Cuomo be much far behind?
See the Coalition release, letter to Governor Cuomo, and the New York State Assembly and Senate bills to stop the rebate of the stock transfer tax at https://nader.org/ny-stock-tax/