Although most Americans may think that the financial crisis and Wall Street bailouts are now just an embarrassing and regrettable moment in the country’s history, this is far from the case, MIT Sloan School of Management professor Simon Johnson says.
In fact, the taxpayer subsidies for the major Wall Street banks continue to this day.
These subsidies, professor Johnson says, take the form of special access to the Fed’s “discount window” and ongoing, unwritten “Too Big To Fail” guarantees that the US taxpayers will cover any major losses the banks incur–by bailing them out all over again.
These subsidies allow the big banks to borrow money at a lower cost than their smaller competitors, and, thereby, win market share and produce higher profits.
Bizarrely, professor Johnson adds, the subsidies mean that the US taxpayer is even subsidizing Goldman Sachs’ recent $450 million investment in Facebook, one of the hottest tech companies on the planet.
Goldman made the investment in Facebook using money borrowed at subsidized rates. If the investment works out, of course, Goldman and its shareholders will keep all the profits. If the investment fails–and enough other things go wrong that Goldman needs another bailout–US taxpayers will pick up the tab.
This heads-I-win, tails-you-lose arrangement contributed to the last financial crisis, professor Johnson says–the crisis that led to the bailouts and almost brought the economy down. And the fact that the arrangement hasn’t changed–that US taxpayers are still subsidizing Wall Street risk-taking and implicitly agreeing to cover all major losses–means that Wall Street has just gone right back to gambling up a storm again.
And that, professor Johnson predicts, will eventually lead to another financial crisis. (See: Bill Daley’s Appointment Proves “The Bankers Have Won Completely”)