Friday, January 15, 2010

Against the grain

I guess I am the only person misguided enough to be against the “Federal Crisis Responsibility Fee” to be levied on the largest US banks. Besides the usual suspects, Brookings is in favor and Mankiw gives a qualified endorsement.

To me, though, it's heinous. Here's why:

1. It's supposed to be for TARP recovery, yet remember, money is fungible, these revenues can't /won't be earmarked. It just goes into the giant slush fund.

2. Basic tax incidence theory tells us that a significant part of this tax on banks will be passed on to their customers, presumably the very people the administration is trying to placate with the fee to begin with.

However, let us grant the idea that banks got a TARP gift so it's only fair they repay it. Well,

3. Many big banks have already repaid their TARP funds

4. Some banks were strong-armed into taking TARP funds that they didn't want in order not to stigmatize the banks that did need them.

5. Over 50 billion of TARP money went to automakers GM and Chrysler and this money won't be paid back. This is I believe the biggest chunk of TARP funds that won't be recovered. Why should big banks pick up that bill?

6. In the larger picture, this ex-post targeting of very narrow groups, whether punitively as in this case, or positively as occurred in the health bill negotiations, is a disturbing trend in the current administration's method of operation.

7. Finally, this is mere window dressing when compared to what needs to be done with our banking sector. Leverage needs to be limited. Some enlightened form of Glass-Steagall needs to be re-instated. Credit default swaps should trade on exchanges. We need real reform in this sector not a populist, window dressing, revenue grab.


Anonymous said...

You obviously have not been listening to Rush who spent an hour on the horrors of this particular tax.
It was a brilliant take on what this tax means in terms of Sal Alinsky's Rules for Radicals.
Check it out.

Michael Munger said...

I think that by "only one" Angus means only economist.

Rush is not the median voice in the academic economics world.

Anonymous said...

response to #7: Further regulations. Ya, that will solve all the banks problems Angus. They have all the leverage they need in the Federal Reserve--"lender of last resort." The ability to privatize profits and socialize losses is about as obvious a stimulus of moral hazard as there can be. Perhaps banks should be held reliable for poor business decisions in the same way, IDK, Circuit City was. Capitalism, what a concept.
I wish government would just cut out the middle men and nationalize banks; that way we wouldn't have people calling this clear government failure a market failure; and the inevitable outcome this banking system is heading towards will come about much quicker.
BTW, I was with you up until number 7. IMHO, you criticize this act as a mere bandaid on a gaping wound (to rephrase), then prescribe just what you criticized.