Much debate about President Obama's proposed tax on massive banks has focused on a central question: who, aside from the 20-odd financial leviathans who are targeted, will--and should--pay for it?
- Customers One concern is whether everyday bank depositors will end up footing the bill. Analyst Nancy Bush told Reuters that banks will "find ways to pass along their costs from this tax to retail and commercial customers." But as Felix Salmon asks, what's the harm in that? If the fee is passed onto customers, "that might be no bad thing, if it encourages bank customers to move their money to small-enough-to-fail banks and credit unions. The Economist notes that investment banks like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley will be hit harder than commercial banks like JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America. Not only will they have higher net liabilities, but they won't be able to pass off costs to a large depositor base.
- Borrowers Because the tax will target liabilities, many are arguing that it will limit lending at a time when the economy is still struggling and unemployment at 10 percent. The banking industry claims the fee could result in up to $1 trillion in lost lending. "How you are going to tax banks and expect them to lend more is frankly lunacy," Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R., Texas) told The Wall Street Journal.
- The Wrong Companies Some bloggers are arguing that the banks and finance companies like GE Capital shouldn't be the ones paying for the bailout. The biggest banks, have or intend to pay back the TARP funds they received, The Business Insider's John Carney argues. "The losses instead come from AIG, Chrysler, GM, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And none of these institutions will be subject to the new tax." The American Enterprise Institute's David Frum concurs, asking how much of the losses can be traced back to auto industry bailouts: "1/4? If so or anywhere near it, why is the tax to fall on banks only?"