Streetwise Professor

July 23, 2010

Timmy! Antoinette

Filed under: Derivatives,Economics,Energy,Financial crisis,Politics — The Professor @ 9:08 pm

Dripping with condescension, Timmy! blew off the concerns of, oh, I don’t know, just about everyone in every kind of business about the effects of the regulatory avalanche that the administration and Congress have unleashed.  No sign here of that deep empathy that is supposedly he hallmark of Obama appointees (h/t R):

“Businesses always want their taxes lower and always want to live with low regulation,” Geithner said. “There is nothing remarkable, or particularly interesting frankly, that we’re in the midst of another debate, which you hear in almost any administration, with people looking for ways to help affect the outcome on the basic path of regulation and taxes.”

. . . .

But when asked a third time by The [Daily Caller] to address the [Business Roundtable] memo, Geithner said it was “a long, diffuse list of familiar concerns, again reflecting nothing remarkable … in the fact that business would like to operate with fewer restrictions.”

Translation: “The concerns expressed from coast-to-coast by businesses large and small, in virtually every industry, are not legitimate.  They are just petty, grubby attempts to achieve favorable regulatory treatment and reduced taxes.  Those who advance these concerns are self-interested and mercenary, and beneath the contempt of a high minded Olympian such as I.  Let them eat regulation.”

Astoundingly, Geithner dismisses any idea that the financial deform and health care bills are creating spending-suppressing uncertainty:

Geithner contested the idea that the health and financial regulation bills have made it more difficult for businesses to plan for the future.

“The basic framework is set. And that should help again give people a lot of clarity about what the basic rules they’re going to operate under is [sic],” he said. “But of course there’s a lot of rule-writing design, and there should be. A lot of the existing set of rules, muck of rules, were not any good. And so you want people to go back and revise and reform.”

Anyone who could say this is either a mendacious liar or a clueless clown.  (And yes “both” is making a strong run for the money.)  In the financial bill alone, there are at least 243 rules touching on every aspect of banking, securities, and derivatives markets that remain to be written: the true total is probably higher.  Nobody knows what those rules will be.  Nobody knows how those rules will interact.  Nobody knows how businesses and households are going to respond to this blizzard of new ukases.

A lot of clarity my [insert body part of choice here]. “Revise and reform” suggests an incremental process to fix known problems.  In contrast, what we face in the coming years is anything but incremental, but is instead a wholesale re-engineering of the entire financial sector.  And the same is true of the health care legislation.

Let’s just take one slice of one piece of legislation: the derivatives title of Frank-n-Dodd.  What has to be cleared?  No idea.  What will margin requirements be?  Who knows?  What capital requirements will regulators impose?  Oh, probably somewhere between zero and 100 percent.  Who will be exempted from the clearing requirements?  I’ll get back to you on that.  How will derivatives be traded (e.g., WTF is a “swaps execution facility”)?  I haven’t the foggiest idea.  What will energy position limits be?  Ditto.  And on and on and on.

Then, once you’ve finally learned what the rules will actually be, now try to figure out how market participants will respond to them.  What will happen to credit?  Prices?  Entry and exit?  Liquidity?

I talk to quite a few people in finance and energy on a regular basis.  A big part of the reason that I talk to them is that they’re trying to figure out what the hell is in the bills, how regulators are going to respond, and what the implications are for their businesses, and they figure that maybe I have some insights onto that.  And my answer is: I only wish I knew.

“A lot of clarity.”  All that people are clear about is that NOTHING is clear.  As a result, the pucker factor is quite high.

In typical administration fashion, Geithner admits that there is uncertainty out there, but this has nothing to do with anything the administration or Congress has done.  It’s just a psychological phenomenon, a sort of financial post traumatic stress syndrome dating to 2008–conveniently before Obama and Geithner arrived to save us peons:

“The big uncertainty that the world is still in … is that people, again, scarred by the trauma induced by the crisis are still looking to see how strong is growth going to be,” he said.

No, Timmy!  The big uncertainty is that, letting “no crisis go to waste,” the administration and Congress have played the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and cast spells touching on every aspect of the economy, the effects of which by their own admission they have not the slightest understanding.  (Cf. Nancy Pelosi: “And we will find out what is in the Bill, as soon as it passes,” and Chris Dodd: “We don’t know ultimately how well the ideas we’ve incorporated here will achieve the results we desire” and “No one will know until this is actually in place how it works.”  Yeah, just screams “clarity,” doesn’t it?)  If the people who wrote this stuff have no idea, how are the rest of us poor slobs supposed to figure it out?

In fact, if it sticks with the attitude Geithner expressed, the administration is signing its own death warrant.  Call it a capital strike, going Galt, what have you.  With this barrage of regulations; pea soup fog of uncertainty; and higher spending and taxes as far as the eye can see, investment and consumer spending and employment growth will remain moribund, at best, with devastating political consequences.  And in 2010 or 2012, if things do indeed play out this way, the incantation “Bush did it” won’t work any electoral magic.  Sadly, by then the damage that the nation will have suffered will be immense.

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  1. […] No, really, they are. […]

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  2. An administration headed by an individual with no private sector experience and filled with those largely born into social privilege and having no private sector business experience cannot be expected to understand the issues faced by private sector businesses. Turbo Tax Timmy is but one of those now in office who are part of the problem and not part of the solution.

    Comment by Charles — July 24, 2010 @ 9:15 am

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Toby Bryans and R, R. R said: The tragedy of Timm-uh! Geithner, an over-privileged snob & his boss, the smug man of ZERO private sector experience. […]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention Streetwise Professor » Timmy! Antoinette -- — July 24, 2010 @ 2:21 pm

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