Donald Trump winning the presidential election was a genuine surprise, so it’s interesting to see how the stock market reacted to the sudden news that the Republicans will have a unified government. The market is up slightly overall, another point of evidence that what’s good for the stock market is not at all necessarily good
How can we tell if the biggest banks have gotten safer? One way is to look at their balance sheets, especially the amount of debt they have. And there we can see that their leverage has decreased compared to where it was before the crisis. But another way is to look at how the market
It’s impossible to look at any single financial regulation without understanding the problem it is trying to solve and how it would hang together with the rest of the financial regulatory regime. This is why cost-benefit analysis of financial rules isn’t very useful, as any rule depends on all the other rules. It also means
We—Marshall Steinbaum, who has recently joined the Roosevelt Institute as a visiting fellow, and Mike Konczal—have a new working paper out titled Declining Entrepreneurship, Labor Mobility, and Business Dynamism: A Demand-side Approach. We hope you check it out! We think it adds some important evidence on an unfolding debate. Here is a great write-up by Anna Louie Sussman
Donald Trump has received considerable positive attention for his plan to raise taxes on investment firms by ending the much-maligned “carried interest” loophole. It’s one of the clearest things Trump himself has said about his tax plan, with statements like “I want to do something with the Wall Street guys because some of these guys
Five years after the official end of the recession, economic activity in the U.S. remains below potential. One important reason is the slow growth in business investment, which remains weak, especially compared to previous recoveries. To an increasing number of observers, the weakness in investment appears related to the rise in what observers are calling
After Hillary Clinton released her financial reform agenda in early October, Roosevelt’s Mike Konczal compared her plan and Bernie Sanders’ plan against the “Elizabeth Warren test” for financial reform. The Elizabeth Warren test calls for five key pieces of financial reform: defending Dodd-Frank, increasing enforcement, reining in the shadow banking industry, a financial transaction tax, and breaking
Following the well-received Disgorge The Cash, this is really the foundational paper that outlines a working definition of financialization, some of the leading concerns, worries, and research topics in each area, and a plan for future research and action. Since this is what we are building from, we’d love feedback.
Prior to this, I couldn’t find a definition of financialization broad enough to account for several different trends and accessible enough for a general, nonacademic audience. So we set out to create our own solid definition of financialization that can serve as the foundation for future research and policy. That definition includes four core elements: savings, power, wealth, and society. Put another way, financialization is the growth of the financial sector, its increased power over the real economy, the explosion in the power of wealth, and the reduction of all of society to the realm of finance.
Each of these four elements is essential, and together they tell a story about the way the economy has worked, and how it hasn’t, over the past 35 years. This enables us to understand the daunting challenges involved in reforming the financial sector, document the influence of finance over society and the economy as a whole, and clarify how finance has compounded inequality and insecurity while creating an economy that works for fewer people.
Savings: The financial sector is responsible for taking our savings and putting it toward economically productive uses. However, this sector has grown larger, more profitable, and less efficient over the past 35 years. Its goal of providing needed capital to citizens and businesses has been forgotten amid an explosion of toxic mortgage deals and the predatory pursuit of excessive fees. Beyond wasting financial resources, the sector also draws talent and energy away from more productive fields. These changes constitute the first part of our definition of financialization.
Power: Perhaps more importantly, financialization is also about the increasing control and power of finance over our productive economy and traditional businesses. The recent intellectual, ideological, and legal revolutions that have pushed CEOs to prioritize the transfer of cash to shareholders over regular, important investment in productive expansion need to be understood as part of the expansion of finance.
These historically high payouts drain resources away from productive investment. But beyond investment, there are broader worries about firms that are too dominated by the short-term interests of shareholders. These dynamics increase inequality and have a negative impact on innovation. Firms only interested in shareholder returns may be less inclined to take on the long-term, risky investment in innovation that is crucial to growth. This has spillover effects on growth and wages that can create serious long-term problems for our economy. This also makes full employment more difficult to achieve, as the delinking of corporate investment from financing has posed a serious challenge for monetary policy.
Wealth: Wealth inequality has increased dramatically in the past 35 years, and financialization includes the ways in which our laws and regulations have been overhauled to protect and expand the interests of those earning income from their wealth at the expense of everyone else. Together, these factors dramatically redistribute power and wealth upward. They also put the less wealthy at a significant disadvantage.
More important than simply creating and expanding wealth claims, policy has prioritized wealth claims over competing claims on the economy, from labor to debtors to the public. This isn’t just about increasing the power of wealth; it’s about rewriting the rules of the economy to decrease the power of everyone else.
Society: Finally, following the business professor Gerald Davis, we focus on how financialization has brought about a “portfolio society,” one in which “entire categories of social life have been securitized, turned into a kind of capital” or an investment to be managed. We now view our education and labor as “human capital,” and we imagine every person as a little corporation set to manage his or her own investments. In this view, public functions and responsibilities are mere services that should be run for profit or privatized, or both.
This way of thinking results in a radical reworking of society. Social insurance once provided across society is now deemphasized in favor of individual market solutions; for example, students take on an ever-increasing amount of debt to educate themselves. Public functions are increasingly privatized and paid for through fees, creating potential rent-seeking enterprises and further redistributing income and wealth upward. This inequality spiral saps our democracy and our ability to collectively address the nation’s greatest problems.
We have a lot of future work coming from this set of definitions, including a policy agenda and FAQ on short-termism in the near future. I hope you check this out!
In honor of Dodd-Frank’s fifth birthday party last week, I wrote a 4,000 word summary of the major accomplishments of the financial reform act. It includes what is working as well as what is stalled, what needs to be amplified and what isn’t yet tackled. There’s a focus on the CFPB, derivatives, capital, and ending Too Big To Fail. It’s aimed at both readers with little background as well as people with some familiarity, so I hope you check it out and share.
On the 5th Anniversary of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, Roosevelt Fellow Mike Konczal wrote an explainer in Vox looking at the three core pillars of the law and where additional reforms are needed. Dodd-Frank fixes the broken consumer finance system by creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It addresses out of control derivative trading by