The fake news media overlooked something important while covering the marches in Charlottesville, Va. Classes were about to start at the University of Virginia with an enrollment just shy of 30,000. At least half of student body, maybe more, are female. Instead of protesting a chunk of concrete, try talking to them. Don’t forget The Beatles song, “When you’re carrying tiki torches and pictures of Chairman Mao, you ain’t gonna make it with anyone anyhow.”
Also lost in the drama are potentially dangerous efforts toward widespread financial deregulation. Critics of Dodd-Frank have a valid point; some regulations lead to higher costs for consumers. However, the adage about throwing out the baby with the bathwater also comes to mind. Banks are making record profits while claiming post-Great Recession rules burden them unnecessarily.
The Volcker Rule, named for Reagan-era Federal Reserve Chair Paul Volcker, limits the amount of FDIC insured deposits banks can use for speculative investments. The last time we tried banks regulating themselves, it didn’t work out so well. Essentially, they are gambling with taxpayer insured money. In other words, a perverse heads I win, tails I don’t lose scenario. Regulators now push to relax the rule.
Under Dodd-Frank, regulators can toughen rules for systematically important financial institutions (SIFI). The new kids in town propose eliminating the SIFI designation. Excuse me while I pull another cliché out of my back pocket, but those who don’t learn history’s lessons are doomed to repeat the same mistakes. America’s large banks control more assets today than in 2008, and they are no less important to our economy.
Perhaps you saw the movie or read Michael Lewis’s “The Big Short.” Most movies pale compared to the book they were based on, but not this one. Lewis detailed the role loosely regulated derivatives played in The Great Recession. These derivatives trade as “swaps,” ostensibly supervised by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Revamping the post-crisis rules governing “swaps” will not end well.
Stress tests, which measure how well banks function in poor economic conditions, for small and medium banks should be different versus large ones. However, lowering the leverage ratio, deposits versus loans and other obligations, for large banks is a recipe for disaster. Making stress tests easier shifts the burden of any losses to taxpayers.
The Volcker Rule, stress tests, SIFI designations, and tighter derivatives trading guidelines were put in place to help the country avoid another financial crisis. The idea markets regulate themselves is a libertarian fantasy. Even the venerable Alan Greenspan admitted he was wrong regarding lax financial regulation (New York Times, October 24, 2008). These changes are not red or blue issues but green. Your job, home value, and retirement could be at risk.
You can’t always get what you want, but Buz Livingston, CFP can help figure out what you need. For specific recommendations, visit livingstonfinancial.net or come by the office in Redfish Village, 2050 Scenic 30A, M-1 Suite 230.