Would you enlist the failed financial geniuses who lost roughly a half billion taxpayer dollars on a failed solar panel operation known as Solyndra to manage your retirement accounts?

Those geniuses were of course government bureaucrats, and now they want to help you decide how to invest the money in your 401(k)s, IRAs and other accounts.

In fact, they are so eager to assist you that, unless Republicans in Congress hold firm, you may not have a choice in the matter.

The Department of Labor has put forward sweeping regulations on how 401(k)s, IRAs and other accounts are managed.  These regulations would make it extremely difficult to get certain investments into your retirement portfolio, no matter what you would like to buy. Want gold? Well, the government might not think that is a good idea. The new regulations would make it risky for brokers at low-cost firms to so much as answer some questions informally. Want to know how an indexed fund works? Fearing liability, a representative of a financial service company will probably not be willing to tell you.  

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees blocked funding to implement these regulations in the 2016 Labor-HHS Appropriations bills, but, if Republicans fold, you're going to be hamstrung when it comes to getting advice or having certain products bought for you. As John Berlau of the Competitive Enterprise Institute has pointed out in an article at National Review Online, one idea behind the proposed regulations is that citizens are too stupid to manage their own accounts:

Is Jonathan Gruber — the MIT economist who seemingly dropped out of public view after he was caught on camera bragging about how he and other Obamacare architects misled the American public — now advising the Department of Labor? No evidence indicates that he is, but the authors of DOL’s sweeping new seven-part group of regulations that would sharply curtail choices of assets and investment strategies in 401(k)s, IRAs, and other savings plans appear to share Gruber’s mindset on the “stupidity of the American voter” (a revelation that Rich Lowry aptly described as “an unvarnished look into the progressive mind, which . . . favors indirect taxes and impositions on the American public so their costs can be hidden, and has a dim view of the average American”).

In one section of the proposed regulations, we learn that investors "seldom have the training or specialized expertise necessary to prudently manage retirement assets on their own." Tjhe regulations state elsewhere: "Most consumers generally cannot distinguish good advice, or even good investment results, from bad.” We are so dense that “recent research suggests that even if disclosure about conflicts could be made simple and clear, it would be ineffective — or even harmful.”

Investing in markets is always fraught with both peril and opportunity. The Obama administration has never trusted people to make their own decisions, and so it wants to throw you to federal bureaucrats, who, as the Sylyndra and similar fiascos attest, are really stupid about investing money. "Isn’t it ironic that the government that took a bath with Solyndra thinks that the vast majority of Americans can’t prudently manage their investments, and that somehow bureaucrats can do better?" Berlau asks.

But in the view of the Obama administraion more government control is always advisable. Berlau calls the new regulations "ObamaCare for your IRA."

It is true that brokerage firms can have conflicts of interest, but can't the same be said of the federal government? I don't think it is at all far-fetched that at some point people who would never invest on their own in treasuries will find themselves heavily invested in them. The way it will work is that financial professionals will be be told by the federal government that the government doesn't agree at all with the financial choices she has made for Ms. Jones. Rather than take a risk that Ms. Jones wants, a risk that could win big or lose big, Ms. Jones could conceivably find herself heavily invested in treasury bonds. Like it or not.

The new regulation would also make it extremely difficult for owners of IRAs to hold specific nontraditional investments. Many self-directed IRAs contain, by the individual investor’s design, everything from precious metals such as gold and silver to peer-to-peer loans from platforms such as Prosper and Lending Club. Whether inclusion of these alternative assets is a good investment strategy is a matter of opinion, but it should be a choice for the investor to make.

Compliance costs are estimated at $6 billion over ten years, but there are other costs, including making it harder, if not impossible, for investors to use their retirement funds to fund start-up ventures.

Comments are due by July 21, but the issue is how hard the GOP is willing to fight for your autonomy with regards to your own retirement money.

Here is one more analysis.