Friday, October 16, 2009
As Simon Johnson has previously pointed out, the White House has pretty much admitted that the government created the mega-giants, and they are not the product of free market competition.
Now Treasury has made pretty much the same point:
"The growth of the major financial firms over the past few decades -- including Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the major investment banks -- also likely stemmed in part from the assumption by investors and counterparties that these firms would receive government assistance if they became troubled," assistant treasury secretary Michael Barr said at a speech earlier this month at the National Economists Club.
A recent paper by Baker and Travis McArthur shows that the too-big-too-fail guarantee also allows GSE banks to access capital cheaper than regular banks. The difference over the last several quarters adds up to an annual $34.16 billion taxpayer subsidy to major banks -- roughly half of their projected profits. That subsidy is more than twice what taxpayers spend on the major welfare program, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families.
"Private banks can't compete with a GSE," said Whalen.
Major banks have been able to sell toxic assets to the Federal Reserve and also have access to capital at close-to-zero percent interest rates from the Fed. By using zero-percent money from the Fed and lending it back to the U.S. government by buying Treasuries that pay higher rates, banks can squeeze out an extra subsidy. But there is no way of knowing how much of that capital banks have taken advantage of because the Fed doesn't make the information available.
"The numbers in [the report] suggest that to a large extent the recent rise in the profitability of the TBTF banks may be attributable to the fact that they enjoy the protection of the government's backing at a time when the banking system as a whole continues to experience substantial strains," write Baker and McArthur. "This should concern policymakers, since it would imply that a substantial portion of the profits of the largest banks is essentially a redistribution from taxpayers to the banks, rather than the outcome of market transactions. It is not clear that Congress and the public would support this redistribution if they realized that it was taking place."
The Too Big To Fails are Titanic Because of The Feds.