Quantifying The Too Big To Fail Governmental Subsidy

Tyler Durden's picture

Even as Tim Geithner was boldly lying today on national TV, claiming that he abhors the concept of too big to fail, and condemns moral hazard, behind everybody's back he, together with the entire Obama administration, was trying to pass a law that would shift TBTF from a temporary program into officially canonized law. This is a scandal that has gotten little recognition in most of the MSM: in essence it guarantees that the massive mega banks like Goldman Sachs, BofA, and JPM will take on so much disproportionate risk the next time around (and with a moral-hazard encouraging Federal Reserve as risk regulator virtually guarantees their implosion) that not only will they blow up spectacularly once again, but that their bailout next time around will surely force America, already strapped with trillions of new upcoming debt courtesy of stimulus after stimulus, into sovereign insolvency.

One of the side effects of the TBTF policy is that it is essentially a subsidy of the mega banks at the expense of the smaller, regional ones, as the cost of capital of anyone perceived Too Big To Fail will approach zero due to their implicit guarantee by the US government in perpetuity: an unfortunate side effect of moral hazard becoming a national doctrine. An analysis by the Center For Economic and Policy Research has quantified the funding differential as one of 49 basis points, which translates into a bank subsidy of $34.1 billion per year for all banks with more than $100 billion in assets.

Comparing this thus quantified subsidy to other controversial programs as Foreign Aid Appropriations for 2009, indicates that the TBTF subsidy is 20% higher, and TBTF is more than double the projected budget allocated for the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF).

What is more relevant for shareholders of these banks, is that the subsidy, when represented as a fraction of bank profits, accounts for nearly 50% of all bank profits. And as profits are a function almost exclusively of banker comp as the only substantial banking overhead (consisting of base and bonus) the sad conclusion is that the government directly is funding at least half the bonus pool for all the TBTF institutions.

The table below highlights what portion of an institution's total profits is owed to Geithner's and Obama's generosity.

It is probably not too surprising that a high case estimate of the TBTF (which at the end of the day will likely prove too low anyway), accounts for 12.8% of profits at Goldman, 41.4% at JPM, 91.9% at Regions Financial, and a whopping 166.1% of Capital One's "profits."

As the CEPR paper authors Dean Baker and Travis McArthur point out:

[T]he 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. 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.

So the next time there is public outcry at bonuses at Goldman Sachs, the general public should instead turn their anger to liars such as Tim Geithner who claim to want the right thing, but in actuality are merely trying to not only perpetuate the TBTF system and in doing so make it much more acute, but to also make sure that Wall Street extracts its pound of flash this bonus season, probably for the last time before the GDP collapse resumes its downward path absent Obama Stimuli 2 through infinity, and this time takes the market with it.

Full CEPR paper below:


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Miles Kendig's picture

Most of the public cares about Jerry Springer and politicians only care about getting another 25k in contributions from the bankers so they can be reelected.

This is a crime.  A crime that is sanctioned just as is the policy of judicial exclusion. The rule of law is just as extinct in America as is personal responsibility by policy makers. Geithner cares not a wit because he knows full well he will never be called to account for his actions.

I now know beyond all doubt that my career in public service was a complete waste.  Most of the citizens and their representatives could care less for the concept of responsible self governance or the rule of law.

lizzy36's picture

Layne, i agree with your 1st 2 paragraphs.

I strongly disagree with your last. Your service to your country was not a waste.  Many people around the world appreciate, your service more than words can express. 

deadhead's picture

well said Lizzy. Bravo!

Miles Kendig's picture

Lizzy, my service may well be appreciated, however that does not make it worthwhile.  From my limited perspective, contributing worth is much more than carrying an morbidly obese TBTF system down the road as some sort of codependent rather than assisting it in addressing its health. Hence, the fuel that gave birth to and keeps Miles Kendig going here at ZH.

All The best

dnarby's picture

Hey, you automatically qualify for a much better position in whatever replaces the current system.

And I doubt you'll feel your subsequent contributions wasted.

If you want the position, that is. ; )

Miles Kendig's picture

What can I say?  I have never failed to answer a 911 call yet....

aldousd's picture

Keep the faith Miles, we're still the good guys. Just so happens there aren't that many of us.

Anonymous's picture

Don't give up on the idea of community. As long as we are alive we must live in one. We have to influence what kind of community we want to live in.

Alot can be done at the local level.

geopol's picture

Unrelated bulletin::: Bob Dance Automotive on Merit Island Florida taking gold for autos....


faustian bargain's picture

that...is cool. i smell the future.

perpetual-runner-up's picture

see cap one on there as the outlier???

I am convinced they will be the sacraficial lamb before all is said and done....

they make a great political target...everyone hates them, their assets can be easily absorbed (possibly help C in some way), and the exec comp structure is such that they can make it look REAL bad given the HUGE equity percentage...

Anonymous's picture

David Einhorn's speech at the Value Investing Congress : Banks even more TBTF.


Anonymous's picture

The so-called "resolution authority" sought by the administration would not "shift TBTF from a temporary program into officially canonized law." Instead, it would allow the government to force bondholders (instead of taxpayers) to bear the losses.

This is what was done with WaMu and Wachovia, and it worked well - in fact, that is the way the system is supposed to work, is it not? However, a gap in the the law currently prevents the FDIC from taking over bank holding companies. Hence, the "resolution authority" is needed for those types of institutions so the taxpayer is not forced to cover the costs through ad-hoc bailouts.

Anonymous's picture

The govt claims to need this new authority to unwind complex derivative contracts, no?

Why then is any entity allowed to write a contract that can't be resolved in the case of insolvency?

It would be nice if I could write an insurance contract in the berkshire/aig style (post no collateral), pay myself a phatty bonus based off the premiums, then let my company go tits up and have .gov pick up the bill. Do we really need new laws to make something like that illegal? If so I feel sorry for all the suckers who actually toiled to make things when getting rich is that easy.

Anonymous's picture

How does an institution become critically important to this nation's security by compromising this nation's security?

DaveyJones's picture

Spell correct: abwhores too big to fail and condoms moral hazzard

Missing_Link's picture

but to also make sure that Wall Street extracts its pound of flash this bonus season

Nice pun, Tyler!

I bet you were thinking no one would notice.

Anonymous's picture

the sad truth is that over the years our overlords have quite intensionally created a citizenry of fat, lazy, self absorbed idiots that don't have the will, energy or brains to rise up against the bankster politcal/corporate leadership. Sheeple is way too kind a word for what WE have become

Crab Cake's picture

Here's a nice quote from super sellout Turbo Timmy.

"I think you can say with confidence that the financial system is stable [and that] the economy has stabilized," he told an audience of the Economic Club of Chicago.

Ha Ha.  Go F&*^ yourself Timmy. 

I'm gonna remember this one, what a lying sh*& bag.  The fundamentals are STRONG, indeed.


Green Sharts's picture

Look at that first sentence  "I think you can say" is not what a confident person says, but then it is immediately followed "with confidence".  He's contradicting himself in one sentence.  If he actually believed it, the sentence would be "The financial system and the economy have stabilized."  I think he could almost say that with a straight face. But to be honest he would have to follow it by saying:  "Unfortunately, they have stabilized at substandard levels and have only done that with the help of massive government deficit spending that is clearly unsustainable."

Anonymous's picture

Hmmm... "I think you can say..."

Wow, THAT is an enlightening choice of caveat to wrap a whole report in, I mean...

I think you can SAY that the moon is made of green cheese.

I think you CAN say that Ben Bernanke is the Queen of all Londinium.

I think YOU can say that Tim Terrific wears ladies panties underneath his suit.

I THINK you can say just about anything you want when you preface it with "I think you can say".

That's like testifying in court by answering "Well, I've heard rumors that..."

What utter BS.

Oxytan's picture

I'm seeing a bloomin fugly failure afoot.  Where's my soma you wankers!?


laughing_swordfish's picture


Some means of taking over bank holding companies is needed.

MY suggestion - create a Financial Resolution Authority specifically for the BHC's and re-commission the Resolution Trust Corporation to take care of the junk assets piled up by the BHC's, much of which is outside the authority of the FDIC.

Just a thought ...


KptLt laughing swordfish

9er Unterseeboote Flotille

percolator's picture

I'd like nothing more than for Marsellus to call "a coupla hard, pipe-hittin' niggers, who'll go to work on Timmy here with a pair of pliers and a blow torch. You hear me talkin', Timmy? I ain't through with you by a damn sight. I'ma get medieval on your ass."

laughing_swordfish's picture

Hey Percolatah

Gonna go gangsta on the banksta ?

TumblingDice's picture

I think the question to ask here is, would they dare through one of their own to the wolves when the economy is such a bad shape as it is now? To me, the answer is not yet. There first has to be an increase in the velocity of money, which may never happen for all we know, before they try reaping in the profits of an even bigger bailout.

And in terms of sovereign bankruptcy, I doubt we see anything official, ever. It would be very surprising. Most likely we will just follow big brother Biden's advice and avoid bankruptcy by spending and borrowing more. The technique will work until a vote of no confidence is issued by the international community, since it sure as hell won't come from US citizens...maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised.

After reading this article I would hope that there outrage but I think people have forgotten that it is possible to vote for anyone, not just the donkeys and the elepaphants. Anyone care to join me in starting the anti-fiat party?

Anonymous's picture

The only way out of this entire mess is to eliminate most debt. Since debt is paid off with Federal Reserve Notes, our money needs to be totally replaced within the borders of the United States. New money would replace old money 1 for 1. Money owed between individuals would still have to honor original debt terms in new money. Old money owed between individuals to businesses or the government would be replaced with new money paying off the entire debt to the business or government.

Old money owed to banks would be cancelled. All deposits at banks will have new money replace old money. This insures individuals and businesses that their new money is available for withdrawals, check writing, etc. And all banks get a fresh start. Banks return all old money back to government.

Money owed between businesses would still have to honor the original debt terms in new money.

All money owed to the government by anyone would have new money issued to the government and the debt or tax cancelled. Local and state government budgets will be funded with one year of new money based on a prior budget.

All old tax laws will be cancelled. New tax laws will need to be created. Income tax abolished. Sales tax only. No tax to exceed 10% to state and 10% to federal. Constitution guarantees it.

No borrowing by any government permitted. However they may collect fees for non-mandatory service or items.

In other words, government must live within their means. All future obligations of government to individuals are to be converted to what can be realistically budgeted. Government would not be allowed to borrow money ever.

All dollars overseas will not be converted. All US government debt overseas will be paid by the dollars exchanged within our borders. The rest of the world can decide if they have value. We won't print up any more old dollars.

I'm sure there are flaws here. This is just ideas to bring some sanity to the situation.

But we have to stop the money printing and abolish the Federal Reserve. We simply cannot pay all the debts and obligations of this country. The politicians need to be stopped from selling Americans out to special interests.

Gordon_Gekko's picture
Paul Tudor Jones jumps on the Gold bandwagon: http://www.scribd.com/doc/21753600/Tudor-Third-Quarter-Letter Counting Paul, we now have four of the best traders of our times long Gold, the other three being John Paulson, Andrew Hall and George Soros. Who's on the other side of that trade?Robert Prechter...HAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAAHAAHAHAHAHA!!!
Anonymous's picture

What has been clear for a long time considering the fraud, theft,scurrilous raid on the people's Treasury, is that the exectutive branch, the legislative branch, and the judicial branches of government and their owners, the Jamie Dimons, the Lord Blankfeins, and other Masters of the Universe do not, in George Carlin's immortal words, give a fuck about you, me or anyone else not on their speed dials.

Their are two different worlds in this universe: them and everybody else, who they view as the flesh upon which these parasites suck.

Ned Zeppelin's picture

Don't forget to write, email and call your senators and congressman to protest this bullshit TBTF law.  I don't think it's inevitable at all.  Inform them that your vote in 2010 depends on opposing this ridiculous bill. Refuse to despair, don't give in, and do what you can do, even if it doesn't seem like much.

Think what you will about Grayson, but I am throwing some money to support him as a voice of opposition - I invite you to do the same:

"Dear friend,

In Washington, when you speak the truth about what needs to be done, you make a lot of friends. But you also make a lot of enemies.

That's why your pledge to support my campaign is so crucial. I need to show the pundits and my opponents that I won't back down to try and gain the support of special interests -- I'm here to represent you!

To keep doing that though, I need to build a strong grassroots base of support. Please help me make the kind of statement my opponents can't ignore on November 2 by forwarding this message to your friends and inviting them to visit Fed.CongressmanWithGuts.com and make a pledge as well

Thank you again for all that you do.


Alan Grayson
Member of Congress"

Sqworl's picture

Sorry, Ned: I do not support Pimp congressman Acorn aka as Alan Grayson.

Just look at the guy and digg, Acorn elected him and also pick his clothes everymorning.

Gordon_Gekko's picture

As long as he's f--king up the Fed's shit in public, I don't care if the Satan himself elected him. The Fed is a way bigger evil/enemy than anything else right now. It is the fountainhead of all crime and corruption in America, even the world.

Sqworl's picture

GG: He is not shagging anybody.  He is a loud mouth attention seeking punk.  Grandstanding to get headlines.  Ron Paul is fu--king with the FED....Reality check...knowing who owns the FED, do you really, really think anything will change??????

Slewburger's picture


If the FED's authority is called in to question there so far as to talk of illegitimate debt.... there would be a rush for the exits.

It reminds me of shuffling the furniture in a burning room.

Nobody will get too loud about this or they get a Dealy plaza scalp massage.

percolator's picture

I agree with GG. 

The biggest issue facing our country is the out of control Fed.  The problem is people like you, Sqworl, who cannot support a candidate from an opposing party who holds viewpoints on minor issues which you do not agree with.  BTW - I'm a Libertarian and do not like ACORN one bit, but I'm willing to support Grayson and overlook issues which he supports and I oppose because he's attacking the Fed which is top priority as far as I'm concerned.  

Until people like you cross party lines and support representatives like Grayson or Paul who are BOTH taking on the Fed, you're right Sqworl, nothing will change. 

Sqworl's picture

Perky: its not the party, I convinced my friend to run for office in my district on Libertarian ticket and threw all my support and money at him.

Look, its all the parties, government cares about government and it has nothing todo with you and me!

Congressman Acorn is just a distraction, while they continue to screw us...As long as Summers, Geithner and Bernanke are in charge...there is zero for us.

Right now they are all locked in a battle to fill their own coffers at our expense. 

percolator's picture

I agree for the most part though I don't think Grayson is a distration I think he's bringing much needed attention to the taxpayer theft that the Fed and Treasury are doing.  The problem is with BOTH the Democrats and Republicans, but there are a few in each party who are taking on the Fed and Timmy; like Democrats Grayson and Brad Sherman, Republicans like Paul and James DeMint or even Independent Bernie Sanders. 

Like I said, until the people of this country set aside their pet issues and unite for the common cause even if this means that Republicans support someone like Grayson and for Democrats to support someone like DeMint who both want to audit the Fed, you're right there will be zero for us.

I've gotten into this discussion with both Dems & Reps and they agree about the Fed, but most of them will not support a candidate in an opposing party for one reason or another like abortion even though the candidate they do support wants to maintain the status quo with the Fed.

And good for you for getting your friend to run for office as a Libertarian.  Really thats what this country needs is a viable third party, term limits and serious campaign finance reform outlawing lobbyists.

Anonymous's picture

Since you say to me don't support that guy, can you tell me what guy to support?


Anonymous's picture

Sovereign insolvency, Moral insolvency, Ethical insolvency we are there now. Default on debt looks like a given

msjimmied's picture

This article is linked to Huffington Post! I don't know if going mainstream would be a blessing..


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