March 22, 2023

Yellen’s Troubling Bank Guarantee

The treasury secretary says more intervention “could be warranted” to mitigate the “risk of contagion.”

What caused the recent collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) and Signature Bank? Risky financial decisions. What did Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen just promise? That risky financial decisions will be backed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. What will we see more of in the future? Risky financial decisions.

It’s a version of the old maxim — if you subsidize something, you get more of it.

To be sure, Yellen did not come out and say that taxpayers will bail out any more banks. (The “fact-checkers” will be happy to correct anyone who says otherwise.) But what she did say can fairly be interpreted as promising the backing of Uncle Sam for banks that run into trouble.

“Our intervention was necessary to protect the broader U.S. banking system,” Yellen said Tuesday in remarks to the American Bankers Association convention. “Similar actions could be warranted if smaller institutions suffer deposit runs that pose the risk of contagion.”

The Wall Street Journal editorial board likewise acknowledged that Yellen’s insinuation “isn’t an explicit guarantee, but it’s close enough for government work.” The editors called her comments “a de facto guarantee of all $17.6 trillion in U.S. bank deposits” that will bring about “the end of market discipline in U.S. banking.”

Is that overwrought? Well, Yellen did use the word “contagion,” which is exactly the word our Mark Alexander used to describe what could happen to the banking system. He explained the history of the 2008 financial collapse, which was seeded by Democrats interfering in the lending industry, on the way to warning what could happen if they’re bent on repeating history — otherwise known as never letting a “serious crisis … go to waste.”

In the case of SVB in particular, the primary beneficiaries were Big Tech firms — a.k.a. the Democrats’ censorship army — and Big Climate investors who benefit from the money shelled out via the beginnings of the Democrats’ Green New Deal. Oh, and California Democrat Governor Gavin Newsom.

Furthermore, we fully expect Yellen’s insinuated bailout promise to incentivize the expansion of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) decision-making in banks. That term describes advancing leftist social policy rather than making sound financial investments. We say that because Joe Biden’s very first veto was to protect and advance ESG in retirement accounts, and banks are receiving loud and clear the signal that Democrats expect certain things in return for bailouts.

Speaking of Biden, forget that he is largely responsible for the trouble banks are experiencing. It was his falsely labeled American Rescue Plan that overheated the economic recovery he inherited, fueling rampant inflation and necessitating actions by the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates. The same Federal Reserve, by the way, that had spent two years expanding the money supply at an unprecedented rate.

Democrats created the toxic brew that ruined some bank balance sheets, and now they want to provide the antidote.

Make no mistake: Yellen has the backing of important Democrats in Congress, too. Senator Elizabeth Warren, who always seems to find herself in the center of these regulatory nightmares, says what has “got to be on the table right now” is doing away with the $250,000 limit on FDIC-insured deposits. “I think the lifting the FDIC insurance cap is a good move,” she said. “Now the question is where’s the right number on lifting? But recognize that we have to do this because these banks are underregulated, and if we lift the cap, we are requiring — or relying even more heavily on the regulators to do their jobs.”

“Underregulated”? We’d laugh hysterically if that wasn’t such an absurd and consequential lie. The Dodd-Frank financial overhaul of 2010 is one of the largest regulatory behemoths in U.S. history, right up there with ObamaCare in terms of its economic impact. For all practical purposes, it codified the very “too big to fail” idea Democrats so vigorously railed against. Republicans passed modest rollbacks of that legislation in 2018, and Warren is now exploiting this crisis to lead the charge to repeal their work.

Warren isn’t alone in floating the idea of lifting the $250,000 deposit limit either. Senator Mark Warner is another Democrat suggesting it, but even Republicans like Senator Mike Rounds and Representative Blaine Luetkemeyer are openly musing about raising it.

As the Journal’s editors note, “Regulators have become all too accustomed to doing anything they want during a market panic, reaching for extraordinary power even in non-emergencies.”

If there’s one takeaway from all of this, it’s that there is rarely accountability in the political class for devastating financial mismanagement. Worse, many politicos have figured out that there’s a successful career to be built in appearing to ride to the rescue during crises they created.

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