Class war breaks out in the U.K.

The Labor government announces a tax on exorbitantly-paid bankers. American populists gnash their teeth in envy

By Andrew Leonard
December 10, 2009 3:26AM (UTC)
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Unsurprising headline of the year: "U.S. Probably Will Avoid Matching U.K. 50 percent Bonus Tax."

Alistair Darling, the U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced the tax -- aimed squarely at overpaid bankers -- on Tuesday, prompting banking lobbyists to immediately condemn the decisionas  a "serious mistake." In a clever move, the tax will not be paid by the bankers themselves, but by the banks.

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From Bloomberg:

"There are some banks who still believe their priority is to pay substantial bonuses," Darling said in Parliament. "I am giving them a choice. They can use their profits to build up their capital base. If they insist on paying substantial rewards, I am determined to claw money back for the taxpayer."

Paul Krugman says the move is "entirely reasonable." Justin Fox asks, "why the heck not?" Felix Salmon says "well done."

But don't expect a repeat across the pond. Bloomberg reporter Ian Katz editorializes that "U.S. lawmakers already wary of expanding the government's role in running financial companies" will be loath to copy the British example, and then quotes a passel of industry spokespeople and lobbyists warning of an "exodus of talent."

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So? Haven't they already done enough damage where they are? Let them go! Maybe they'll be forced to find some honest work.


Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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