Jim McTague of Barron’s notes in his latest column that some recent improvements in the American economy have had little political impact, thanks in large part to government overreach.

You would think then that more Americans would be feeling better about the economy than the polls say we do, and, as a consequence, that President Obama would be more popular than the polls say he is. One reason for the disconnect: Many investors who had drifted back into the market in January and February of 2010 abandoned equities the following May and missed the action.

The fault lies not with them, but with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which, bitten by the central-planning bug between 1997 and 2007, inadvertently changed the stock market from a venue where capital is distributed from long-term investors to promising enterprises into a casino where the exchanges cater to programmable robots, also known as high-frequency trading machines. The robots make short-term stock bets at the speed of light. …

… One positive is that the small investor no longer relies on the SEC or the Commodities Futures Trading Commission for protection. Caution has been reintroduced into the market. The downside is that there’s too much caution—no, make that dread.