AFR Statement: Trump economic plan would block progress on financial reform

Speaking in Detroit on August 8, Donald Trump outlined the very broad brushstrokes of an economic plan that included a “temporary moratorium on new agency regulations.” Such a moratorium would block the implementation of crucial Dodd-Frank rules that have yet to be written or put into final effect. It would also slam the brakes on many ongoing efforts to protect American consumers. Proceeding with these much-needed financial regulations is vital not just to the economic security of American families, but also to the economic stability of the country as a whole.

A regulation freeze would prevent the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from moving ahead with proposals to rein in predatory payday lending and curb the use of forced-arbitration “ripoff clauses” that deny consumers the right to join forces and use courts of law to hold banks and financial companies accountable for wrongdoing. It would bar the Commodity Futures Trading Commission from restricting dangerous speculation in energy, food, and other vital markets. It would block the Federal Reserve and five other watchdog agencies from taking action to rein in runaway executive pay that rewards excessive risk-taking. And it would stop a SEC rule to prohibit the kinds of conflicts of interest that Goldman Sachs engaged in when it bet against the very securities it was peddling to clients in a deal called “ABACUS.” Goldman also failed to tell investors about the role hedge fund manager John Paulson (now part of Trump’s economic team) played in choosing which toxic securities should go into the deal.

In the same speech, Trump spoke of eliminating the carried interest deduction. Closing this loophole is an important and long-overdue policy step that we support. But it’s important to note that other elements in Trump’s tax plan could eliminate many of the benefits of plugging the carried interest loophole. Trump’s plan will apparently cut pass-through business tax rates to just 15%, which is the lowest rate available under the current treatment of carried interest. This change would open up numerous new possibilities for financial partnerships (including entities that cannot currently access carried interest treatment) to reproduce the carried interest tax break. And it would make an already unjust system even more unfair to working people by cutting the taxes of fund managers below the rate paid by most wage earners.

In the speech, Trump condemned “radical regulation.” But recent polling has shown that not only do the majority of Americans across the political spectrum approve of the regulatory reforms in Dodd-Frank, they want to see financial regulation made tougher, not weaker. Financial reform is a matter of vital public significance, and we need to build on the gains made by the Dodd-Frank Act, not undo them. What we’ve seen of Trump’s economic policy plan presents a grave threat to the unfinished business of financial reform.