So the weekend is coming up, and my best advice to anyone interested in a potential banking crisis is to keep an eye on the news. We learned today from one of the Federal Reserve statistical sheets, called H.4.1, that the Fed discount window loaned out $168 billion for the week — the most ever for a single week — plus another $12 billion in loans went out from the new Fed-Treasury backstop lending facility and the Fed loaned $148 billion to the FDIC.
We haven’t seen numbers like that since 2008. No, I don’t think it’s 2008 again, but large discount lending like this suggests a lot more banks than just SVB and First Republic and Signature are getting assistance.
First and foremost, the biggest evil in this story is President Biden’s inflation from the massive spending on social welfare programs, radical climate green new deal programs, and infrastructure spending that really went to climate-related issues.
Let me quote from our friend Kim Strassel of the WSJ, who wrote that “a clean energy tech frenzy, electrical grid modifications, solar, carbon capture, battery storage, electric vehicle charging infrastructure, geothermal smart community widgets, microgrids, CO2 transport, hydro, wind, fuel cells, waste management and efficiency gains.” There’s gotta be a trillion dollars’ worth of that stuff.
Not to speak of the $2 trillion of the unnecessary so-called Covid emergency bill that triggered Bidenflation in the first place. Everybody got caught flat-footed. Mr. Biden was in denial. Secretary Yellen was in denial. Stock and bond markets were in denial. The Fed chairman, Jerome Powell, was in denial. Banks were in denial. All these denials have caught up with us. It’s a sad tale.
Speaking of doing too little, too late, the federal bank regulators were late to the party like they always are. As I said before, Mary Daly at the San Francisco Fed was much more worried about climate than she was about her district’s bank liquidity and solvency problems.
In fact, the principal supervisor was pulled off the job. SVB didn’t even have an official risk manager for most of last year, when bond prices and the bank’s capital collapsed.
Meanwhile, SVB was making loans to all these so-called tech startups engaged in what Ms. Strassel calls “social credit” — essentially subprime loans that probably had no use at all. Think of President Obama’s solyndra to the hundredth power.
Now it turns out that First Republic owned a ton of illiquid municipal bonds and equally illiquid commercial property loans in a failing market.
Speaking of late to the party, the Fed for some reason didn’t use the discount rate soon enough or, for that matter, its backup lending facility, and instead the FDIC decided to go into the moral hazard business by guaranteeing uninsured loans.
None of this should’ve happened. None of it. But that’s always the case when these crises crop up. We don’t yet know how contagious all this will turn out to be.
At the moment, the big banks are loaning $30 billion of their excess reserves to First Republic and the Fed has its own basket of tools for containment purposes. Most of the banking system is well capitalized despite all the mistakes that have been made. So it still doesn’t look like 2008. It doesn’t look pretty, either, and there are plenty of risks still out there.
You know what, I still yearn for J.P. Morgan keeping a bunch of banks in his library until the system could be turned rightside up. Or the great banker telling President Teddy Roosevelt: Have your man call my man and we’ll fix this.
As John Maynard Keynes tried to teach us 100 years ago, inflation is the cruelest tax of all.
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.