You gotta love Washington, D.C., I suspect there isn’t a greater source of amusement anywhere on the planet. Our leaders’ penchant for slapstick is great, but nothing tops their phrasing for brilliance.
Where else could we find a continuation of current tax law called a “tax cut;” a minute reduction in a proposed colossal increase in future spending called a “spending cut;” families who make more than $250,000 a year “millionaires;” printing money to mask a severe recession “quantitative easing;” or the Fort Hood massacre “workplace violence”? This stuff is priceless. I should have been a political reporter, or at least a comedian (I know, what’s the difference?). These guys make it too easy. I’ll bet that if I covered Washington every day like AdvisorOne Washington bureau chief Melanie Waddell, I’d be chuckling all day long.
Fortunately, the financial folks often step up to provide their share of levity, especially those wacky folks at FINRA, SIFMA and the CFP Board. But wait: they’re all in Washington, too. Coincidence? Hmmm. The latest “daffynition” to catch my eye comes from frequent contributor to the Occupy Seriousness cause SEC chair Mary Schapiro, who revved up an oldie but a goodie in a recent Bloomberg interview announcing that the Commission will issue a proposed fiduciary rule for brokers in the coming year, one that would be “business-model neutral, and allow brokers working with retail investors to sell proprietary products and charge commissions.”
Schapiro’s a pro, there’s no doubt about it. While I believe that classic phrasing “business-model neutral” was actually coined by the lexicographers at SIFMA, Ms. Schapiro wields it with such grace and conviction as to make it her own. “Business-model neutral.” It just sounds so fair, so reasonable, so balanced. Who could oppose such an idea, or any regulation that was based upon it? We wouldn’t want to be “unfair,” or “anti-business,” or Earth-Mother forbid, “biased.”
Here, I suppose, we’ve reached the point where it becomes clear why I’m not a political reporter, or even a comedian: I’m the nerd that can’t keep himself from asking “But what are we really talking about here?” Is the problem that Dodd-Frank is addressing a lack of business-model neutrality? And is “business-model neutrality” the standard by which all, most, or even any of our existing laws or regulations are measured?