A new law that was supposed to reduce costs for merchants that accept debit cards has instead sent Mr. Scherr‘s monthly processing bills much higher and forced him to reassess the way he does business.
That’s from an interesting Wall Street Journal article about an unintended consequence of the Dodd-Frank financial-overhaul legislation.Vendors used to pay on a sliding scale for debit-card transactions; Dodd-Frank set a flat fee, which can lead to higher payments on small transactions:
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Many business owners who sell low-priced goods like coffee and candy bars now are paying higher rates — not lower — when their customers use debit cards for transactions that are less than roughly $10. … “Overnight, the variable costs of a transaction have tripled,” says Mr. English, who runs a marketing company that devises payment programs for vending machines. Some machine operators will raise prices and offer 25-cent discounts for cash starting in January, he says.
A few years ago, a friend of mine who used to work on Wall Street told me that the only stock anyone needed to own was Goldman Sachs. He was of course half-joking (I sure hope this wasn’t the advice he was giving clients), but his point was clear: whatever price increases were happening out in the world, whatever profits were there for the taking, no matter the market, you could be fairly certain that Goldman was on the scene.
The image of Goldman Sachs as some sort of omnivorous, ever-present beast was perpetuated by Matt Taibbi in his 2010 Rolling Stone article, in which he dubbed the firm “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.” And that was just the second sentence.
It would appear that the squid has since had a few of its tentacles lopped off, or at least been shrunken down to size. For only the second time since it went public in 1999, Goldman Sachs has posted a quarterly loss. Read More »
A number of months ago I wrote a blog entry on the requirement in the Dodd-Frank bill, put in by then-Senator (and now Kansas governor) Sam Brownback, prohibiting the purchase of “conflict minerals”—those that might be used to finance warfare in Africa, particularly the Congo. I noted the very simple economic point that this would create a surplus that would drive prices down, mostly harm local miners, but benefit buyers/countries without U.S.-level scruples about these purchases.
I shouldn’t brag—any Econ I student could have seen this point; but it is nice, albeit depressing to see this prediction come true. From David Aronson in the New York Times:
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For locals, however, the law has been a catastrophe. In South Kivu Province, I heard from scores of artisanal miners and small-scale purchasers, who used to make a few dollars a day digging ore out of mountainsides with hand tools. Paltry as it may seem, this income was a lifeline for people in a region that was devastated by 32 years of misrule under the kleptocracy of Mobutu Sese Seko (when the country was known as Zaire) and that is now just beginning to emerge from over a decade of brutal war and internal strife.
The Dodd-Frank reform bill includes a provision that prohibits companies from using conflict minerals (gold, titanium, tungsten), the mining of which yields profits that have financed wars in the Congo. Read More »