#81 Rana Foroohar: Wall Street's Giant Threat to the Economy

More than eight years after the financial meltdown, we still have a lot to learn, says our guest, CNN global economic analyst Rana Foroohar.

"The rise of finance has actually kind of eaten the rest of the economy," Rana tells this in this "Fix It" episode.  "Finance controls the rest of industry.  Finance has become the tail that wags the dog." At the same time, the financial industry remains at risk for another hugely destructive collapse.

In her book, "Makers and Takers: The Rise of Finance and the Fall of American Business", Rana says only 15% of all the money in financial markets ends up in the real economy in the form of loans to help grow business.  The rest is traded and shuffled around the financial system. 

"Finance is there to serve business. We need to simplify it," Rana says.  That means deciding "what kinds of activities in our economy we want to incentivize and then creating the rules around finance to help capital flow to those areas."

Solutions:

Reform the tax code that “treats one-year investment gains the same way it treats longer-term investments, and induces financial institutions to push overconsumption and speculation, rather than healthy lending to small businesses and job creators.” End the system's bias favoring debt over equity.

Reduce the U.S. corporate tax rate - and abolish complex loopholes. Encourage multinational corporate to return cash kept overseas, reinvesting it in U.S. enterprises. 
End offshore banking, which allows corporations and wealthy individuals to avoid paying tax.
Discourage stock buybacks. Boost incentives for large corporations to fund research and innovation.
 
Reform banking laws. Impose new safety limits on the amount of money banks must have in cash. 
 
Impose a financial transaction tax: forcing banks to pay a small fee for each trade in bonds, stocks, and derivatives.
 
Limit leverage: impose safety controls that require banks to hold a larger percentage of holdings in cash.
 
Simplify and overhaul the enormously complex Dodd-Frank law, which penalizes community and regional banks.  Pass a new form of Glass-Steagall Act - the 1933 law that separated commercial banking from investing and trading. 
 
Take a page from airline safety.  Set up a financial version of the independent National Transportation Safety Board to investigate bank failures and other threats to the financial system.
 
End "cognitive capture" or group think. When debating financial reform, listen to the views of all stakeholders: large and small banks, consumers, manufacturing businesses and academics that study the impact of finance on other sectors of the economy.