Flash to regulators and legislators, state and federal: You need to do a reality check and try as hard as you can to get some sense of proportion about the various malfeasances at which you are–or should be–taking aim.
To wit: We have heard no end of outrage and other forms of bloviation regarding how the seniors of America are being taken to the cleaners by untold hordes of nefarious annuity peddlers who supposedly are seducing America’s elders by dangling a free meal in front of them.
That this is being done by a number of salespeople, I have no doubt. And let me make it clear that I don’t condone it in any way, shape or form. These shysters should be caught, punished appropriately and publicly hung out to dry.
But I really have my doubts as to whether this kind of activity is happening on the scale that would justify the aforementioned bloviations. It just does not seem likely that nearly every Grandma and Grandpa in the good old USA is getting taken to the financial equivalent of a sheep-shearing farm.
Yet this is happening, one hears, as seniors are being talked into signing away their life savings or are seduced into trading in perfectly good policies–all for the price of a meal! Well, let’s hope they were able to order something besides chicken, if that’s the case!
And what is the upshot of all this outrage? Regulators and legislators in the states and the U.S. Congress are pounding their desks, demanding that this hapless generation of seniors be protected. My friends, I can’t believe that seniors are as unaware, uninformed and borderline mentally defective as their so-called defenders would have you believe.
So why all the fuss? For one, it makes legislators seem so noble to be riding to the rescue of those who supposedly cannot fend for themselves.
For another, it’s easy. Is there any politician, after all, who doesn’t want to be seen as a fierce defender of the aged and a nemesis to those who would defraud them?
Which brings me to my point about the need for a reality check: What are you going to do, o ye stern legislators and regulators, about those executives and companies that indulged in the orgy of subprime investing and are now experiencing one of the most massive hangovers the financial services industry has ever had?
So far, it seems to me, your responses have been remarkably muted and your bloviations almost non-existent. Yet, in terms of havoc wreaked and losses caused, this unchecked extravaganza has far exceeded anything that annuity peddlers may have done.
And here’s one more point you may have missed in your almost total preoccupation with seniors: Consider how much they have lost in investments because of the toll the subprime catastrophe has taken on the stock market and mutual funds, where so much of their savings are stashed.
There was (very) scattered talk early on in the crisis about how a new regulatory scheme was needed not only for commercial banks but for investment banks as well. Then came the inevitable protests from those who would be newly (or more closely) overseen.
That seems to have deflated your hot air capacity and thus any bloviations that might have been forthcoming.
It seems like it’s easier to take after people who may be dipping into other people’s pockets than it is to take after those who are lining yours.
And you know what? That outrages me.