President Obama's misbegotten bank tax is precisely the wrong policy at precisely the wrong time. It will wind up backfiring across the board. Why? Because bank consumers and borrowers are the ones who will wind up paying this tax, creating an obstacle to economic recovery.
Obama is actually rewarding losers and punishing winners -- exactly the reverse of free-market capitalism.
Who's being rewarded? Obama's bank-tax penalty is being used to finance the failed government takeovers of GM, GMAC, and Fannie and Freddie. And let's not forget the $75 billion failure of the so-called foreclosure loan-modification program. To this day, no one knows where that money went. But the big banks are going to be forced to finance this through a tax that will damage lending, stockholders and consumers.
This is sheer political favoritism. Crony capitalism at its worst, with a sub-theme of bailing out Obama's Big Labor political allies. It's just like his bailout of the unions by exempting them from the so-called Cadillac insurance tax until 2018, all while the rest of us may have to suffer under that tax.
Speaking of political unfairness and favoritism, mortgage giants Fannie and Freddie will not pay a nickel of this tax. These government-sponsored enterprises were at the very center of the financial maelstrom, financing the government's quotas and targets for unaffordable mortgages.
Think about this for a second. President Obama is out there bashing away at excessive bonuses. And yet Fannie and Freddie's CEOs stand to make $6 million in the next year or two. Huh? These are big-government-owned bureaucrats. They ought to be paid like GS-18s.
Of course, the Federal Reserve, which is having its most profitable year ever, was probably the main culprit in all this, with its negative-real-interest-rate easy-money policy, which amounted to throwing red meat to a pack of sharks in the deepest waters. But this tax punishes and penalizes the biggest banks -- institutions that have already met their obligations by paying down TARP, with interest, and by providing taxpayers with a tidy profit on the stock warrants they held.
Now, this is not to condone the major mistakes made by the big banks. They were overleveraged, borrowed way too much and sold highly flawed mortgage bonds and other complex derivatives. And the banks should not be paying big bonuses for 2009 -- not for the period during which they were TARPed. That's their biggest mistake.