There are a number of issues that must be understood. First, the Fed quibbles about the differences among lending, guarantees, and spending. For the purposes of this blog I will accept these differences and call the sum across the three “commitments”. In spite of what Bernanke claims, these do commit “Uncle Sam” since Fed losses will be absorbed by the Treasury. (The Fed pays profits to Treasury, so if its profits are hurt by losses, payments to Treasury are reduced. If the Fed should go insolvent, the Treasury will almost certainly be forced to recapitalize it.) I do, however, agree with the Chairman that a tally should not include facilities that were created but not utilized (there were several of them, and the tally I present below does not include any facilities that were not used).
Second, there are (at least) three different ways to measure the Fed’s bail-out. One way would be to find the day on which the maximum outstanding Fed commitments was reached. According to the Fed, that appears to have been about $1.5 trillion sometime in December 2008. I’m willing to take Bernanke at his word. Another way would be to take the total of commitments made over a short period of time—say, a week or a month. That would be a measure of systemic distress and would help to identify the worst periods of the GFC (global financial crisis). Obviously, this will be a bigger number and will depend on the rate of turn-over of Fed loans. For example, many of the loans were very short-term but were renewed. Bernanke argues that it is misleading to add up across revolving loans. Let us say that a bank borrows $1 million over night each day for a week. The total would be $7 million for the week. In a period of particular distress, the peak weekly or monthly lending would spike as many institutions would be forced to continually borrow from the Fed. Bernanke argues we should look only at the lending at a peak instant of time.
Think about it this way. A half dozen drunken sailors are at the bar, and the bartender refills their shot glasses with whiskey each time a drink is taken. At any instant, the bar-keep has committed only six ounces of booze. That is a useful measure of whiskey outstanding. But it is not useful for telling us how much the drunks drank. Bernanke would like us to believe that if the Fed newly lent a trillion bucks every day for 3 years to all our drunken bankers that we should total that as only a trillion greenbacks committed. Yes, that provides some useful information but it does not really measure the necessary intervention by the Fed into financial markets to save Wall Street.
And that leads to the final way to measure the Fed’s commitments to propping up our drunks on Wall Street: add up every single damned loan, guarantee and asset purchase the Fed made to benefit banks, banksters, real Housewives on Wall Street, fraudsters, and their cousins, aunts and uncles. This gives us the cumulative Fed commitments.
And if you go ahead and do that, as two UMKC graduate students have done, you come up with a mind-busting figure:
When all individual transactions are summed across all facilities created to deal with the crisis, the Fed committed a total of $29,616.4 billion dollars. This includes direct lending plus asset purchases. Table 1 depicts the cumulative amounts for all facilities; any amount outstanding as of November 10, 2011 is in parentheses below the total in Table 1. Three facilities—CBLS, PDCF, and TAF—overshadow all other facilities, and make up 71.1 percent ($22,826.8 billion) of all assistance.
Table 1: Cumulative facility totals, in billions
Source: Federal Reserve
|Facility||Total||Percent of total|
|Term Auction Facility||$3,818.41||12.89%|
|Central Bank Liquidity Swaps||10,057.4(1.96)||33.96|
|Single Tranche Open Market Operation||855||2.89|
|Terms Securities Lending Facility and Term Options Program||2,005.7||6.77|
|Bear Stearns Bridge Loan||12.9||0.04|
|Maiden Lane I||28.82(12.98)||0.10|
|Primary Dealer Credit Facility||8,950.99||30.22|
|Asset-Backed Commercial Paper Money Market Mutual Fund Liquidity Facility||217.45||0.73|
|Commercial Paper Funding Facility||737.07||2.49|
|Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility||71.09(.794)||0.24|
|Agency Mortgage-Backed Security Purchase Program||1,850.14(849.26)||6.25|
|AIG Revolving Credit Facility||140.316||0.47|
|AIG Securities Borrowing Facility||802.316||2.71|
|Maiden Lane II||19.5(9.33)||0.07|
|Maiden Lane III||24.3(18.15)||0.08|
Yeah. That figure is in billions, as in $29,600 plus billions, commonly known as $29.6 trillion. Some ten trillion just in liquidity swaps, and another nine trillion in the Fed's primary dealer credit window, plus another ten trillion in change in other various and sundry programs. Twice our entire national debt, just to get the banks out of the hole they were in. Helicopter Ben was dropping cash out of helicopters made of cash.
Oh, and the banks are right back to playing the same games they were before, because they know if they screw up again, the Fed will bail them out...again.
It is any wonder that the Village Elite are looking to scrap as many social programs as possible in order to make the average American pick up the tab for what's coming next?