The Fed Prepares for a Bank Crisis While Telling Americans the Economy is Strong
Last Thursday, Bloomberg reported that federal regulators are preparing a proposal to force US banks to utilize the Federal Reserve’s discount window in preparation for future bank crises. The aim, notes Katanga Johnson, is to remove the stigma around tapping into this financial lifeline, part of the continuing fallout from the failures of several significant regional banks last year.
This new policy is reminiscent of the Fed’s actions during the 2007 financial crisis, where financial authorities encouraged large banks to tap into the discount window, taking loans directly from the Federal Reserve, to make it easier for distressed banks to do the same. The hesitancy from financial institutions to tap into this source of liquidity is justified. If the public believes a bank needs support from the Fed, it is rational for depositors to flee the bank. The Fed’s explicit aim is to provide cover from at-risk banks, trying to hold off bank runs that are an inherent risk in our modern fractional reserve banking system.
By strong-arming healthy banks to comply, the Fed is escalating moral hazard and leaving customers more vulnerable. They are deliberately trying to remove a signal of institutional risk.
The regulator’s concerns about bank fragility are justified. The Fed’s low-interest rate environment meant financial institutions seeking low-risk
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