I forgot to file this yesterday, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did discuss at her press conference two ideas which have been generating discussion on Capitol Hill recently.

On the war surtax favored by Rep. David Obey (D-WI), Pelosi basically torpedoed the idea. She said “that is his idea, he is speaking for himself,” and she added some vague words about how Congress will have to make a judgment on dealing with the cost of escalating the war in Afghanistan later on. Finally, she answered, “I am not in favor of that proposal.”

There is historical evidence suggesting that wars which are paid for end much more quickly than wars which are not. I’m not convinced that correlation equals causation in this case, but we should certainly look to policies that put sand in the gears of war.

By contrast, Pelosi went much further than she has in the past on the idea of a financial transaction tax, saying that the idea “has a great deal of merit.” Apparently she’s discussed the idea with Tim Geithner, who tried to shut it down a few weeks back.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave her strongest endorsement yet of a global financial transaction fee Thursday after raising the issue directly with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner in a conversation this week.

Geithner was widely seen as opposing such a levy when it was proposed by Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, at a meeting of G-20 finance ministers last month in Scotland. But after their phone conversation Wednesday, Pelosi told colleagues that the secretary indicated he was more open to some such fee than had been reported […]

“I believe the transaction tax still has a great deal of merit,” Pelosi said, and if agreement can be reached among the G-20 nations, “It is really a source of revenue that has really minimal impact on the transaction but a tremendous impact on helping us meet our needs.

“I think there would be a market for it among the American people to say that we are all participating in the economic prosperity of our country and we are all pitching in to continue that prosperity.”

Pelosi thinks that the tax should be applied globally to prevent outsourcing of financial jobs to places out of the reach of the tax. Financial jobs are some of the few that I would gladly outsource, actually.

David Dayen

David Dayen