Financial regulatory reform: Not over yet

By Felix Salmon
June 29, 2010
Chris Dodd is looking to possibly beef up the FDIC enormously, and Democrats are wondering whether they need to remove $19 billion in new bank taxes in order to pass Republican procedural hurdles in the Senate.


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It seems that financial regulatory reform is not a done deal after all: Paul Kanjorski says that the reconciliation negotiations might be reopened, Chris Dodd is looking to possibly beef up the FDIC enormously, and Democrats are wondering whether they need to remove $19 billion in new bank taxes in order to pass Republican procedural hurdles in the Senate.

It would be a fiasco of tragic proportions if the banks managed to remove these taxes from the final bill, essentially absolving themselves from cleaning up after their own mess. The arguments against the taxes are weak indeed: either you simply oppose all taxes on principle (which seems to be the Scott Brown stance, and which is fiscally disastrous), or else you’re forced into John Carney’s corner.

Carney is worried that we don’t know exactly where the tax will be applied — but that’s a feature, not a bug. Setting up the tax in great deal ex ante is essentially just asking banks to spend millions of dollars on tax consultants who can help them skirt the new levies. And as the risks in the system evolve and change, so to should the way that they’re taxed. It’s right and proper that the newly created Council for Financial Stability will be charged with taxing systemic risk, rather than having a bunch of politicians try to do so at the beginning and then watch as the banks and other financial institutions nimbly sidestep the new taxes.

An increase in the FDIC premium would be a gift on a platter to banks like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley which don’t have insured deposits — not to mention non-bank players like Citadel which are systemically very important. I’m unclear on what exactly this Republican “procedural hurdle” is — I thought that after reconciliation, you just needed a simple majority to pass a bill. But I’m getting very annoyed about it.

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