- The Fed is supplying the banks with reserves at a near-zero rate. Not much results in bank lending to business, but banks can buy Treasuries that pay 3% to 4%.
- This hefty subsidy to the banking system is ultimately borne by taxpayers. Neither the subsidy, nor the tax liability has been voted for by Congress....
- The bailouts of the banks during the crisis were clear for all to see and caused widespread outrage; now the public is being told that they are being repaid at no cost to the taxpayer.
- What the public is not told is that the repayments come to a substantial extent out of revenues paid by taxpayers for the banks to hold Treasuries.
- Both parties supported the bailouts so neither party seems ready to protest the claim that they are being repaid at no cost to taxpayers.
Whatever the causes of the financial crisis, I firmly believe that much of our response, whether consciously or not, has been to save financial institutions from their own mismanagement. Regardless of the final balance in the TARP fund, this won't be a zero cost proposition.
In Paul Ryan's State of the Union response, he warned of turning the social safety net into a hammock, where we could fall asleep. Unfortunately, we may have already turned our monetary policy into the proverbial golden parachute, rewarding the very folks who failed so spectacularly leading up to the crisis. This includes not only the managers of large firms, but their boards, shareholders, the media, and especially their creditors.
The argument is that such a parachute was necessary since these firms were in free fall and rather than staying in the plane at 10,000 ft., we were tethered to them as they plummeted to earth. Fine, then we'll all hold our noses and pull the rip cord. But once we are safely back on the ground we need to gather up our golden parachute (tattered and torn as it may be) and leave these guys standing on the tarmac.
Our current policy seems aimed more toward letting these guys fashion a comfortable bed from the chute while too many average Americans suffer through a hard landing largely not of their own making.