We're referring to the federal deposit insurance fund, which has been shrinking faster than reservoirs in the California drought. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. reported late last week that the fund that insures some $4.5 trillion in U.S. bank deposits fell to $10.4 billion at the end of June, as the list of failing banks continues to grow. The fund was $45.2 billion a year ago, when regulators told us all was well and there was no need to take precautions to shore up the fund.This is a bill that is coming due. So figure these billions in with the rest of the money that is being spent. This is one more reason to pause before we hand over the health insurance industry to the federal government to run.
The FDIC has since had to buttress the fund with a $5.6 billion special levy on top of the regular fees that banks already pay for the federal guarantee. This has further drained bank capital, even as regulators say the banking system desperately needs more capital. Everyone now assumes the FDIC will hit banks with yet another special insurance fee in anticipation of even more bank losses. The feds would rather execute this bizarre dodge of weakening the same banks they claim must get stronger rather than admit that they'll have to tap the taxpayers who are the ultimate deposit insurers.
It isn't as if regulators don't understand the problem. Earlier this year they quietly asked Congress to provide up to $500 billion in Treasury loans to repay depositors. The FDIC can draw up to $100 billion merely by asking, while the rest requires Treasury approval. The request was made on the political QT because, amid the uproar over TARP and bonuses, no one in Congress or the Obama Administration wanted to admit they'd need another bailout.
But this subterfuge can't last. Eighty-four banks have already failed this year, and many more are headed in that direction. The FDIC said it had 416 banks on its problem list at the end of June, up from 305 only three months earlier. The total assets of banks on the problem list was nearly $300 billion, and more of these assets are turning bad faster than banks can put aside reserves to account for them. The commercial real-estate debacle is still playing out at thousands of banks, even as the overall economy bottoms out and begins to recover.
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
Percolating a bit beneath the surface of public notice is the coming crunch with the FDIC. And, as the WSJ points out, this will be the next area of the economy that the federal government is on the hook to have a massive bailout. This is well and proper that the federal government insures our deposits. But as we're adding up the costs of future spending, we need to include the money that the federal government will have to be spending to come through on that insurance for deposits in failing banks.