Economics 101 for Idiots and Liars

I only use the inflammatory title to get your attention. But I also am only qualifying it to be a nice guy. I really do think they are idiots, and I really do think they are liars. I am just usually more reserved in my analysis.

The hysterically-titled Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009 bill is now being debated by Congress, and there are certainly some elements of it that I like. As a financial professional, I am all for the Fiduciary Standard that the bill would impose on advisors, as I believe that the distinction between “brokers” and “advisors” has been blurred for too long, and that investors have a right to know that whoever is giving them financial advice is bound by a high legal standard. However, there is a major portion of this bill that is sickeningly called the “Let Wall Street pay for the restoration of Main Street Act of 2009”, and it could only have been written by economic ignoramuses, and supported by bold-faced liars.

This little treat calls for a “transaction tax” on all securities, futures, and derivatives transactions. Any time a bond, stock, option, etc. is bought, an additional “tax” on that transaction will be imposed, the recipient of that tax being the Federal Treasury. So who do you think will be paying this tax, exactly? The investor class. That’s right – mom and pop investors who are themselves victimized by the great crisis of 2008 are now going to pick up the tab for this idiotic regulation. Won’t this force large (and evil) hedge funds to pay their “fair share”? Only if you believe these hedge funds will not be passing on this additional expense to their clients (which they will), and only if you believe large institutional investors lack the means and resources to execute their transactions in a different country or exchange (which they do not). The people this bill is targeting will not even be phased by it, I assure you; the losers will be mom and pop investors. It is simple economics. Just like do-gooder leftists who actually believe that corporations pay taxes, as opposed to making up that expense through lower wages and higher prices, the authors of this bill just do not grasp that it is pure window-dressing. It is rank tokenism. And it is awful economics. I am embarrassed that our lawmakers lack the intellectual capability and moral integrity to see these types of things for what they are. The revenues created by this will inevitably come out of another pocket, and the enforcement and compliance costs are absolutely going to be passed on to investors – and I do not mean Wall Street firms or hedge fund conglomerates.

There are gaps in our regulatory system that must be fixed. A plethora of issues need to be addressed as lawmakers address how badly they have screwed things up. But if they are determined to get the prescription this wrong, I would prefer they save us all the trouble and not even look for a diagnosis.