Oh, by all means – tax the banks
And yes, if you’re wondering, I’m being highly facetious with the title.
But that’s the growing consensus among our political leadership – at least that brand of it which believes such taxes are actually paid by the institutions themselves. And you have to love the reasoning:
The U.S. and European governments are moving toward a consensus on taxing large banks to cover the cost of any future bailouts rather than asking taxpayers to foot the bill, as happened regularly in past banking crises.
The tax proposals vary. Germany and Sweden would use the money to fund a “resolution authority” that would use the money to shut troubled banks whose failure would put the broader economy at risk. Others, such as France, would assess the fee after a crisis passed.
What’s wrong with that, you say? Well anyone – if you’re going to be bailed out and you know it, where the aversion to risk come from? Why not play with other people’s money a little more if there’s no death penalty for doing so? If you are a assured a fail-safe position, why not go for broke?
It seems to provide a perverse incentive to do exactly what you don’t want to see happen.
Our leadership is split on how they should approach it. I bet it doesn’t take you much time to figure out what part of the leadership sides with France’s concept and which would like to see an ongoing tax fund. You’re right, the administration wants to see assessments made after the fact and the Congress prefers a slush fund they can plunder an ongoing fund established (Unsurprisingly Ezra Klein of juicebox mafia fame finds this the most satisfying solution of the two).
Either way, it’s going to cost you money.
And instead of leaving the banks with the threat of punishment by the market for stupid risks (failure), they’ll collect money from you in the form of higher fees and other costs and pass them on to the government so it can subsidize their bad behavior and then wonder why its regulations didn’t work.
Oh, wait, we’ve already wondered about that, haven’t we? I know, let’s make even more regulations.
The core problem? It, like health care, remains unaddressed.