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KUDLOW: A Primer On Modern Socialism Through The Regulatory State

Treasury Secreatary Janet Yellen, Screenshot

Let me begin with one word: Socialism. That’s what Secretary Yellen was talking about today when she spoke before the American Bankers Association. Bailouts for everyone.

No matter who’s going to pay for it, because remember, a universally guaranteed insurance plan for all banks and their depositors, or politically targeted banks like Silicon Valley, which in no way was a truly systemic problem.

That’s what socialism is all about: Central planning. The unelected bureaucrats run the country. Harken back to Steve Forbes’s insight: modern socialism through the regulatory state.

And, heck yeah, First Republic bank shot up 50 percent today the nanosecond after Ms. Yellen told the bankers, “Our intervention was necessary to protect the broader U.S. banking system, and similar actions could be warranted if smaller institutions suffer deposit runs that pose the risk of contagion.”

Of course, contrary to President Biden and Ms. Yellen, it is the taxpayers who will pay for these bailouts. Bankers have to pony up their fees to the FDIC and somebody’s gonna pay for that. Guess who: You.

The taxpayer, the customer, the blue-collar worker, the family having trouble making ends meet on groceries and utility bills and their credit card payments and their mortgages: They will pay for the stupidity of others and for these grand dictums of executive authority that I’ll bet are unconstitutional. Where does it say in congressional legislation that bank regulators can just wave a magic wand and universalize all deposit insurance? Where does it say that?

Now look at the headlines from the last 24-48 hours. They tell the story:

“Yellen says U.S. will intervene if needed to protect smaller banks.” Another headline, “U.S. Studies Ways to Insure All Bank Deposits If Crisis Grows.” Or, “Treasury Secretary Yellen says the government could backstop more deposits if necessary to stop contagion.”

Of course, all this bailout talk sparked a relief rally among regional bank shares, and the overall stock market was up today. In the short run investors love a bailout, don’t they? But, kids, somebody’s got to pay for this.

Mr. Biden has already proposed nearly $5 trillion in tax hikes aimed at successful earners, so-called rich people, who already pay nearly half the taxes in this country, and that’s just to finance his huge increase in social welfare benefits without work rules with his $7 trillion budget and $20 trillion of higher deficits over the next 10 years.

But the taxman comes in the form of the Treasury and the FDIC and other Biden banking appointees.

Throw in Ms. Yellen’s protégé: Mary Daly of the San Francisco Fed, who failed to supervise Silicon Valley Bank.

“Careless supervision sank SVB,” an economist, Larry Lindsey, wrote for the Wall street journal. “How did California, the FDIC and the Fed all fail to pick up what now seem like obvious red flags?”

Or a New York Times headline, actually with a very good piece: “Before collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, the Fed spotted big problems.”

How did this all happen? How to get out of this mess? Well, it looks like it’s socialism to the rescue — but I’ll say, taxpayers had better beware. Caveat emptor.

Anybody ever hear of moral hazard? Anyone? Well, here’s what a distinguished NYU business professor, William Silber, had to say last night on our show: “Well, the Hail Mary effect is sort of what a Hail Mary is, which is you only do it when you have what we both call downside protection, when you can’t lose because you already have the game lost. So you take a risk. And anything that has downside protection, you know, and I know promotes risk taking.”

Mr. Kudlow: “And today that sounds a bit like moral hazard kind of thing.” Mr. Silber: “It’s exactly moral hazard. It’s moral hazard.”

Well, thank heavens I passed. By the way, Mr. Silber is one of the most distinguished financial economic academics in the country and a man of good common sense.

So, moral hazard means you can do any darn thing you want. Throw the “Hail Mary” pass because the government is giving you downside protection and you can’t lose.

Now, everybody else around you is going to lose because they’re going to pay for your mistakes. Including depositors, banks, working people, and actually the whole country.

What happens next? Well, banks stop making loans, credit contracts, and the economy falls into recession. Loan standards have already tightened substantially; almost half of the loans now have been tightened up in terms of their standards. The collapse in bonds blew up bank capital.

Well, there’s a big problem with commercial real estate lurking out there alongside all the Silicon Valley so-called startups and other crazy woke ventures. Here’s what the sensible House Freedom Caucus says about this story: “Americans are done with government bailouts — especially when caused by the government’s own policies. Out-of-control spending in Washington and Federal Reserve interventions have fueled skyrocketing inflation.”

Right there, let me interrupt by saying that was the original sin.

Then, the Freedom Caucus goes on to criticize mismanaged banking and concludes: “Any universal guarantee on all bank deposits, whether implicit or explicit, enshrines a dangerous precedent that simply encourages future irresponsible behavior to be paid for by those not involved who followed the rules.”

Well, heck, haven’t we talked for two years about Mr. Biden’s big-government socialism? Of course we have. But golly, now bankers too?

Can we find somebody out there who still works hard and plays by the rules? Can we try to at least think about going back and practicing free enterprise capitalism instead of big government bailouts? Just a thought.

You know me, trying to be optimistic. Just a thought.

From Mr. Kudlow’s broadcast on Fox Business News.

Larry Kudlow was the Director of the National Economic Council under President Trump from 2018-2021. His Fox Business show "Kudlow" airs at 4 p.m &. and his radio show airs on 770 ABC from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.