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The JOBS Act: Washington Takes One Step Back Toward Capitalism
April 20, 2012
Editorial By Ron Holland
I know my editorial credibility and reader confidence will suddenly collapse when this goes to print but I have some good news out of Washington and Congress. Yes, I know what you are getting ready to do but don't hit the delete button just yet!
The JOBS Act is actually good news for start-up and private company investors that will provide more liquidity, create an IPO boom and may be the beginning of a trend by Washington away from more regulatory and bureaucratic solutions holding down a nation and economy that simply can't compete with the rest of the world.
Now, this could be an aberration, an oversight or simply the result of lobbying by Wall Street interests concerned about their future. It also could be preservation planning by politicians scared to death of re-election losses and their personal safety after what they have done to our nation, economy, wealth and freedoms. After all, looking at the civil unrest in Europe that could expand to the US, they're in a corner. I believe our politicians only have two options: a return to free-market capitalism or bullets and, being politicians, they'll probably explore both options.
Congress passed the JOBS Act on March 27, 2012 partly because given this recession and high unemployment environment what politician would not vote for a JOBS Act? Although the legislation actually has nothing to do with jobs or employment in the near term, perception is certainly reality inside the Washington beltway and after all, this is an election year.
The name actually stands for "Jumpstart Our Business Start-ups" and the goal is to revive economic growth in the United States by halting the serious decline in initial public offerings (IPOs). Congress decided in its wisdom to try a unique and foreign idea, by "Washington standards," that works well in Asia. They decided to actually reduce the regulatory burden on companies wanting to raise capital in the US. The fact is over the last decade in America there has been an 80% drop in small companies going public. They seek to remedy this situation.
My first concern is the name of the act as Washington legislation usually ends up accomplishing the exactly opposite of what a name would suggest. For example, the US Bank Secrecy Act of 1970 was the first step in the Washington inspired destruction of banking privacy and secrecy, initially in the United States and today expanded to banking around the world.
What the Act Does
First, the act makes it less difficult for young, growing companies to easily go public by removing many of the expensive and restrictive requirements created by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and other legislation. Fewer auditing requirements and improved communication between companies going public and potential investors is a big plus for the IPO market to enable US markets to compete with more free-market and capitalist competitor nations in Asia. Investors will discover expanded underwriters' research and more open advertising for new share offerings.
Second, private firms could delay and avoid the onerous regulations and broad disclosure requirements of registering with the Securities and Exchange Commission until the number of shareholders reaches 2,000, up from 500 today, which, compared to Canada and other nations, is already quite generous.
Third, another major benefit will positively impact less wealthy potential investors in private company start-ups and IPOs formerly generally restricted to high-net-worth Accredited Investors. Now firms that "crowdfund" and raise funds for entrepreneurs from lots of small investors over the Internet will find their jobs are easier with reduced registration requirements, while investors can benefit from the opportunity to get " a piece of the action" formerly restricted to wealthy investors.
Of course, the JOBS Act certainly isn't perfect. There is less audit information and disclosure for unsophisticated investors and all investors need to be wary of high-pressure hucksters and investing more than a small percentage of their investment funds into these often high risk investments that can on occasion provide spectacular returns.
America Doesn't Want to Go Greek!
The Feds and Congress are concerned about the threat of civil unrest in America's future. What is happening in Greece, Spain and other European nations that have followed the American model of unlimited government debt and falling standards of living to maintain their welfare states is a scary proposition both to politicians and special interests. There are only two options for nations caught up in today's economic scenario, recently explained quite well for once by Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve in a speech to the congressional Budget Committee:
"Sustained high rates of government borrowing would both drain funds away from private investment and increase our debt to foreigners, with adverse long-run effects on U.S. output, incomes, and standards of living. Moreover, diminishing investor confidence that deficits will be brought under control would ultimately lead to sharply rising interest rates on government debt and, potentially, to broader financial turmoil. In a vicious circle, high and rising interest rates would cause debt-service payments on the federal debt to grow even faster, resulting in further increases in the debt-to-GDP ratio and making fiscal adjustment all the more difficult."
Bullets or Free-Market Capitalism
Bernanke's difficulty for America, as he terms it, can only be addressed by either growing the economy through real free-market capitalism or growing the police state at home in order to protect the politicians, institutions and elites responsible for the "difficulty."
There is no doubt that as American citizens and investors we are forced to deal with Washington's multiple personality disorder and extreme schizophrenia that recurrently takes control of behavior and actions by a paranoid and at times delusional leadership.
Recently, the Homeland Security Administration headed by Janet Napolitano ordered 450 million rounds of hollow point ammunition designed to decrease penetration and destroy more tissue upon entering a body, thus creating more pain and suffering for targeted victims. While we can only guess where this type of domestic firepower might be used by Homeland Security and in what situations, this is apparently a unique solution directed only at American civilians. First, it is against the law in some states for private citizens to use this kind of ammunition. Second, the use of such bullets in military conflict has been prohibited in international warfare by the Hague Convention Declaration III since 1899.
Now, I don't mean the Larry Kudlow mantra recited way too often on "The Kudlow Report": "We believe that free-market capitalism is the best path to prosperity!" He is correct but there is little free-market capitalism connection to what is standard practice for Wall Street.
Yes, a majority of individual investors have lost faith in the American economy and financial markets but why shouldn't they? In 2010, high frequency trading (HFT) made up more than 70% of all equity trades in the United States. The trading was exclusive to a few proprietary firms or proprietary trading desks at the larger investment banks, many of which were bailed out by American taxpayers. This is in contrast to long-term hold strategies practiced by most investors and investment advisors who are at a disadvantage to this highly advanced second-by-second electronic process.
Consider this. The Flash Crash of May 2010, the belief in possible market manipulation by big Wall Street firms, the Federal Reserve and the secretive plunge team all have combined with mediocre packaged financial products and advisor investment returns, which seldom reach even market index averages, to destroy faith in what is called free-market capitalism and the US financial markets. Add in the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world, regulations and bureaucracy costs and you see why Congress had to act.
Every American Company Is Now Competing In A Global Marketplace
Stock markets and economic growth flourish in China and Asia while the West is increasingly burdened by central bank fiat currency creation, exploding government debt, confiscatory taxation levels and regulatory burdens that only Karl Marx and Chairman Mao could love.
Our tax rate and regulatory burden is a drain on American economic growth, competitiveness and job creation. It is increasingly difficult to compete with China, India and other more free-market nations and is the reason growing numbers of US corporations are leaving and taking their investments and jobs with them.
"The climate for business is frightening here," and that's why he's moving half his operation to Macau. – Steve Wynn, the entrepreneur who led the rebirth and explosive expansion of the Las Vegas Strip in the early 1990's.
This May Be A New Dawn For American Investors
The JOBS Act is the first real step by Congress to address the need for Washington to turn away from the failed policies of socialism and regulatory democracy and back to free-market capitalism that is flourishing across Asia and other high growth nations. America has to compete again or suffer the consequences of prolonged recession, currency weakness and a burdensome government debt load that will in time bankrupt the United States and destroy the wealth of private investors.
The first step to restoring confidence in US investment markets is aimed at entrepreneurial private companies and initial public offerings in America. Out of desperation, this could be the beginning of a major reversal of regulations, designed to free American and Western businesses and competitiveness from the regulatory burden created over the last 50 years.
I'm CEO of a young, growing company that's already attracting the accredited investors' funding necessary. The JOBS Act will certainly make it easier for our startup to raise money, remain private longer and then go public when we believe the time is right.
As an entrepreneur, it is about time for the United States to say goodbye to the failed Keynesian, overly bureaucratic and indebted regulatory democracy that threatens our nation and economic future. But the socialist and monopoly enemies of freedom and truly free markets will surely counter-attack and this JOBS Act is as yet just one tiny step back toward real capitalism that once made our nation prosperous and great.
Our company and related entities are positioned perfectly to take advantage of this new legislation. Although we wait with interest and anticipation in the United States for the final regulations so we can move forward toward more growth, profits and success, today we operate in a global environment. American industry and regulatory governance is in direct competition with China, India and other jurisdictions with more free-market benefits and lower costs.
To be successful in the competitive, Internet-connected capitalistic world today, a company can not wait or suffer long the costs and delays from entrenched bureaucracies and special interests.
The many regulations, often contradictory and counterproductive, cost just the federal government over US$2 trillion dollars to enforce and this is a mere pittance compared to this burden on private industry. I applaud Congress and Washington for an important first step back toward restoring confidence in US markets but there will need to be many more actions taken to free the American economy from a destructive US government regulatory environment.