Among the human body’s amazing feats is balancing an always-changing array of chemicals that bring us life but also have the potential to cause harm.
Phosphorous and calcium, for example, are locked in a particularly delicate dance. Too much phosphorous strips calcium away from bones; excess calcium, unrestrained by phosphorous, creates its own health risks.
Our financial system and economy is also dependent on the balance of many smaller parts. When one goes out of whack, another suffers.
Two main components keep things in check with their inherent tension. in one corner, we have “making money,” with capital formation, revenue, and corporate growth placed in that bucket. And in the other corner, we have investor protections and shareholder rights, intended to protect against abuse and oligarchy. Both forces must be in relative balance or we all suffer.
That complicated juggling act, however, is driving dissent with major regulatory reform initiatives.
The problem with the Dodd-Frank Act, critics have long argued, that it leaned too heavily on the investor protection side of things by imposing onerous thresholds, restrictions, and demands upon financial institutions and public companies. Fast forward to the current deregulatory push, led by President Trump and given substance by Republicans in both the Financial CHOICE Act and a Treasury-authored blueprint for regulatory overhaul.
The frequently overlapping ideas contained in the report and Senate-bound legislation are ripe for a debate. The CHOICE Act—despite being promoted as an all-or-nothing omnibus bill like the Dodd-Frank Act—will in all likelihood be more a buffet than prix fixe. A blend of political consensus and odds-making will chop and slice its proposals into categories of passable, unpalatable, and “save the fight for another day.”
Skilled politicos are particularly adept at two types of hand waving: the friendly gesture that seems personal no matter how big a crowd; and the amnesiac ability to just pretend something never happened. Critics are fretting the latter. Their above-the-fold complaint: demands for targeted deregulation and Dodd-Frank demolition conveniently ignore the lessons learned from the Great Recession.
Skilled politicos are particularly adept at two types of hand waving: the friendly gesture that seems personal no matter how big a crowd; and the amnesiac ability to just pretend something never happened.
Aside from warnings of resurrected Wall Street greed gone amuck (a tremendously simplified account of the 2008 financial crisis) there are also critiques that neither of the Republican plans truly deal with protecting investors and those with the most to lose during financial upheaval: students, seniors, soldiers, veterans, and working families.
The Republican talking points are that the burden of excess regulation is passed along to consumers with higher costs and reduced services. At a recent hearing of the Senate Banking Committee, members doubled down on this theme by stressing that “saving money” equates to “consumer protections” and boasting that they shy away from calling efforts “regulatory reform” in favor of “economic growth.” Go to the website of the House Financial Services Committee and “Main Street” is invoked in its content more than “Wall Street.”
All that probably won’t be enough to satisfy investor advocates. Party line squabbles over the CFPB (the agency with “consumer protection” in its name) and a “fiduciary duty” aren’t going to do much to convince investor advocates that things are on the right path.
Yes, some regulatory relief is warranted, but the country, aside from Wall Street, probably has more of an appetite for capital formation. Just as the JOBS Act followed the Dodd-Frank Act, capital formation efforts must be paired with regulatory reductions.
Perhaps under the radar, amid the big picture reforms on the table, are plenty of legislative ideas to foster capital formation and benefit smaller businesses. The House Financial Services Committee is at work on the Supporting America’s Innovators Act, Encouraging Employee Ownership Act, Small Business Capital Formation Enhancement Act, and many others.
The Senate Banking Committee has similarly amassed more than 100 legislative proposals for improving economic growth.
Not all of these ideas will prevail, nor should they. Collectively, however, they embody a big picture theme that must run parallel to the debate over deregulation.