econscius

Occupy Chicago Is Completely Wrong on CME Tax & Job Claims

In Illinois, Income Tax Rates, Job Creation, Occupy Wall Street Protests, Political Rhetoric on October 15, 2011 at 12:51 am

Occupy Chicago protesters rally Thursday in the Loop, echoing their Occupy Wall Street counterparts in New York. But how about a march on Main Street by the wealthy? That may be just the catharsis America needs.

I heard a theatre teacher from Occupy Chicago talk on the radio about the movement’s demands.  The various Occupy movements have been criticised in many corners for a lack of specific proposals, but Occupy Chicago has a specific demand.  A quick analysis shows the math does not work behind an Occupy Chicago idea and the concept is completely divorced from reality.

Occupy group Stand Up Chicago is demanding the City of Chicago place a 25 cent per trade tax on all contracts traded at the Chicago exchanges, of which the CME is the largest.   Occupy Chicago says this would earn $1.4 billion of fresh tax revenue, which it claims could be used to create 40,000 new City of Chicago jobs. [1] [2]

One sign of a complete lack of perspective and knowledge is how Stand Up Chicago’s statement demanding the tax calls the Chicago exchanges “giant casinos” it claims brought on the financial crisis.  Considering the financial crisis was caused by subprime mortgages going bad, it is quite curious to blame Chicago’s options and futures markets.  The CME and Chicago Board Options Exchange did not make loans nor did they bundle mortgages for securitization.   CME is the parent of the legendary Chicago Mercantile Exchange and iconic Board of Trade.  Clearly, Stand Up Chicago does not understand.

It just so happens the CME was already negotiating with Florida and Texas about relocating its operations.   Illinois raised its state income tax in January, becoming the 3rd highest in the nation.  [3] The CME then announced its attention to look at alternatives.  Illinois was desperately trying to keep the CME from leaving before Occupy Chicago’s idea of a fresh $1.4 billion tax came along.  Such a tax certainly is not going to stop the CME from leaving.

The idea of taxing the Chicago exchanges will not work.  Surely, the CME will leave and Chicago will end up with fewer taxpayers and thus fewer taxpayers as a result.  CME employs 2,000 in the Chicago area, but it has a large multiplier effect because of the numerous trading firms that reside in Chicago to be near the CME’s trading floors.  Banks and other financial institutions employ many who service the CME and trading firms.  Large private firms maintain traders and support staff, for example, meteorologists who predict weather patterns on behalf of agricultural companies’ hedging activities.  “Some estimates place the job count from the trading industry here, which includes the Chicago Board Options Exchange, at more than 60,000.” [3]

But Occupy Chicago’s ideas are even more outlandish than they seem at first blush.  Let us look at the math.  First, the CME had 2010 revenue of $3 billion, on which it earned a profit of $951 million. [3]    A $1.4 billion tax on a local industry where the primary firm, the CME, earned less than $1.0 billion is a very significant tax, indeed. 

Even if the CME were to stay in Chicago despite the special tax, there is nothing stopping aspiring exchanges in Singapore, London, Dubai, Mumbai, Hong Kong, Shanghai or Tokyo from working to steal away the CME’s business.  Since they are not in Chicago and thus not subject to a special tax, these international competitors would gain a significant opportunity.

Would $1.4 billion create 40,000 new jobs for the City of Chicago? 

No.

A quick check of the City of Chicago budget shows the City employs 32,922 employees at a cost of $3.3 billion.  [4]The average city worker earns about $75,000. [5]  The average worker costs about $100,000, including benefits.  That means a $1.4 billion tax, even if enacted and collected, would employ one-third of the claimed 40,000 but rather 14,000.  Adding 40,000 employees would more than double the entire City of Chicago workforce. 

Adding the 40,000 workers would require a tax of $4.0 billion, or more than 4X the entire profit of the CME.  As a reference for the relative size of a hypothetical $4.0 billion Occupy Chicago tax, consider that the entire city budget, serving 2.7 million residents and long known as one of the least efficient and most corrupt of municipal governments, is $6.2 billion. [6]

The cost of an employee is more than just payroll and benefits.  The 40,000 hypothetical workers will require new leases of office space, and expenses for business cards, computers, telephone connections, pens, staplers, and many other things, all costing money.  Any tax will hire fewer City workers because of these other overhead costs.

The Occupy Chicago tax idea and related job claims may make for good populist press, but they are so divorced from reality they must be dismissed out of hand.  Chicago’s financial industry is already at serious risk of leaving the city over the tax burden already in effect.  A $1.4 billion tax increase would certainly drive it out altogether, putting as many as 60,000 private sector jobs at risk.  The Occupy Chicago claims of 40,000 new City of Chicago jobs are triple what a $1.4 billion tax could realistically pay for.  [7] The Chicago exchanges are not in the mortgage business and did not cause the financial crisis.   Just as protesting capitalism will not create any jobs, excepting the occasional protester paid by a union to attend, a huge tax on financial transactions will cause Chicago to lose jobs, not gain them.

 

 

[1] http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-10-11/news/ct-met-take-back-chicago-20111011_1_protesters-demonstration-cboe-holdings

[2] http://www.chicagonow.com/chicago-muckrakers/2011/10/40000-jobs-for-25-cents-a-new-plan-for-job-growth-in-chicago/

[3] http://www.suntimes.com/business/5854347-417/cme-group-leaders-cite-illinois-taxes-in-threat-to-leave-chicago.html

[4] pg. 5 of http://civicfed.org/sites/default/files/ChicagoFY11BudgetAnalysis.pdf 

[5]  http://anthonytrendl.blogspot.com/2011/06/chicago-city-worker-salaries.html

[6] pg. 3 of http://civicfed.org/sites/default/files/ChicagoFY11BudgetAnalysis.pdf

[7] I take the $1.4 billion tax revenue claim at face value though it seems a bit rich.  The CBOE had 1.124 billion contracts trade in 2010 ( http://ir.cboe.com/releasedetail.cfm?releaseid=549018) and the CME approximately 3.0 billion contracts (based on daily avg. 12.2 million contracts (http://cmegroup.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=43&item=3088) multiplied by 250 trading days a year).  Apply 25 cents to 4.124 billion contracts and we only get $1.0 billion in tax.  There are a few other small, inconsequential exchanges.

Pictures from Wikipdia Commons, except Chicago protest from Chicago Tribune (credits embedded in picture).

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  1. Why do you say Stand Up Chicago is Occupy Chicago just because they both have Chicago in their title and participate in direct actions?

    It would be like confusing the Congress of America and the Bank of America.

    • Hi Daveo1,

      Thanks for reading.

      According to the Chicago Tribune article (my footnote #1), “The demonstration was organized by Stand Up Chicago, a coalition of some 20 community groups and organizations that want “to reclaim our jobs, our homes and our schools,” according to the group’s website.” That means Stand Up Chicago is backing the “Occupy Chicago” protests. The radio bit I heard was of a man identified as an “Occupy Chicago” organizer who verbally espoused the same 25 cent tax that “Stand Up Chicago” is pushing, according to the Chicago Tribune. If you have a link showing Stand Up Chicago has nothing to do with Occupy Chicago and espouses different agendas, I’d be happy to issue a correction.

      I do not see the parallel in your point about confusing the American Congress and Bank of America, which are an elected national legistature, enumerated in the US Constitution, and a private sector for-profit bank. Apples and oranges.

      Thanks for comment,
      -John

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