What am I looking at?
The above chart -- courtesy of Nanex -- "The Rise of the HFT Machines" shows just how much high-frequency trading (HFT) has affected stock market trading volume from January 2007 to January 2012. The different colors represent the different markets.
1. Generally, watch how much the trading volume increases from 2007 - 2012.
2. Specifically, watch what happens to the volume on August 5, 2011
What happened on August 5, 2011?
Standard and Poors downgraded the U.S. credit rating
There was a huge increase in activity, again, so what?
Greenbiz explains it this way:
...automation combined with high-frequency trading strategies has disrupted the smooth functioning of the markets because the computers react long before people can react; as such, the computers are in many ways dictating consumer sentiments before such feelings surface, in essence leading investors to adopt trading behaviors instead of the other way around.
I need more than that to care
Remember this? Knight Capital (KCG) almost ceased to exist because of computerized trading run amok -- Granted they're the ones installed the program, but it doesn't take too much imagination to see it happening again (and again and again)
Specifically, what is High Frequency Trading?
High-frequency trading (HFT) is the use of sophisticated technological tools and computer algorithms to trade securities on a rapid basis.
What are the benefits of a Financial Transaction Tax?
I'll let Salavatore Babones from Truthout explain it:
"An FTT accomplishes two goals. Most importantly, it raises money. Unlike most taxes, however, it does so in a way that is arguably beneficial to the economy as a whole. While most taxes involve some sacrifice from taxpayers in order to promote the common good, the FTT promotes the common good directly through the "positive externalities" it generates for the economy. Positive externalities are improvements to economic efficiency that result from changes in behavior. A well-designed FTT would discourage speculation and computer-driven high frequency trading in financial instruments. That would reduce market volatility and increase access to capital markets for ordinary borrowers and investors. Even if an FTT raised no money, it would still improve the economy."
How much money would it raise?
I've seen estimates anywhere from $50 billion to $350 billion
Who opposes it?
Besides the financial industry, Republicans and Grover Norquist? The White House (yes, I'm citing a year old article but here's more recent news)
The argument I see over and over is that it would drive trading overseas and hurt our financial markets
Specifically, what legislation are we talking about?
Keith Ellison introduced H.R. 6411: Inclusive Prosperity Act. This bill would raise up to $350 billion through a small tax on stock, bond, derivative and currency trading. It's been referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means
I've read this and still have no idea what you are talking about.
The article I read that really made me care was The Better Bargain: Transaction Tax, Not Austerity by Katrina vanden Heuvel of The Nation.
Pretend you're standing on a Soapbox, what would you say?
This would bring stability to the market that may just help prevent another meltdown. Oh, and a Financial Transaction Tax damn well better be on the table before a "Grand Bargain" that takes services away from the poorest and the neediest in this country
What can I do?
Contact your congressperson and ask that they support this bill (You can see who the cosponsors are here) And talk about it, this needs to become part of the regular conversation when we discuss "Grand Bargains" and such.