Today, lots of people woke up in shock and horror to what happened in Cyprus: a forced capital reallocation mandated by political elites under the guise of an “equity investment” in insolvent banks, which is really code for a “coercive, mandatory wealth tax.” If less concerned about political correctness, one could say that what just happened was daylight robbery from savers to banks and the status quo. These same people may be even more shocked to learn that today’s Cypriot “resolution” is merely the first of many such coercive interventions into personal wealth, first in Europe, and then everywhere else.
For the benefit of those people, we wish to point them to our article from September 2011, “The “Muddle Through” Has Failed: BCG Says “There May Be Only Painful Ways Out Of The Crisis“, which predicted and explained all of this and much more. What else did the September BCG study conclude? Simply that such mandatory, coercive wealth tax is merely the beginning for a world in which there was some $21 trillion in excess debt as of 2009, a number which has since ballooned to over $30 trillion. And with inflation woefully late in appearing and “inflating away” said debt overhang, Europe first is finally moving to Plan B, and is using Cyrprus as its Guniea Pig.
For those who missed it the first time, here it is again. Somehow we think many more people will listen this time around:
Restructuring the debt overhang in the euro zone would require financing and would be a daunting task. In order to finance controlled restructuring, politicians could well conclude that it was necessary to tax the existing wealth of the private sector. Many politicians would see taxing financial assets as the fairest way of resolving the problem. Taxing existing financial assets would acknowledge one fact: these investments are not as valuable as their owners think, as the debtors (governments, households, and corporations) will be unable to meet their commitments. Exhibit 3 shows the one-time tax on financial assets required to provide the necessary funds for an orderly restructuring.
For most countries, a haircut of 11 to 30 percent would be sufficient to cover the costs of an orderly debt restructuring. Only in Greece, Spain, and Portugal would the burden for the private sector be significantly higher; in Ireland, it would be too high because the financial assets of the Irish people are smaller than the required adjustment of debt levels. This underscores the dimension of the Irish real estate and debt bubble.
In the overall context of the future of the euro zone, politicians would need to propose a broader sharing of the burden so that taxpayers in such countries as Germany, France, and the Netherlands would contribute more than the share required to reduce their own debt load. This would be unpopular, but the banks and insurance companies in these countries would benefit. To ensure a socially acceptable sharing of the burden, politicians would no doubt decide to tax financial assets only above a certain threshold—€100,000, for example. Given that any such tax would be meant as a one-time correction of current debt levels, they would need to balance it by removing wealth taxes and capital-gains taxes. The drastic action of imposing a tax on assets would probably make it easier politically to lower income taxes in order to stimulate further growth. (See Exhibit 4.)
Curiously, not even BCG expected the initial shot across the bow to be so bad that everyone, not just those above the €100,000 threshold would be impaired. Alas, that is the sad reality in Europe, where as the chart above shows, a total of €6.1 trillion with a T in additional wealthconfiscation tax is coming.
Oh, and US of A… fear not – your turn is coming too: with a price tag of €8.2 trillion in wealth tax pending as of 2009. This number is now somewhere north of €15 trillion.