Though Treasury likes to gloat about TARP funds having been paid back by the big banks, the banks have received a back-door bailout, of almost exactly the same size, that will never be paid back. Almost no one talks about it, and no one in government is even keeping track of it.
Out of the total $700B TARP bailout, approximately $205B were disbursed to the banks through the Capital Purchase Program. Of that $205B, roughly $150B has actually been paid back. One of the dirty secrets of the bailout, though, is that Treasury and the Federal Reserve found a way to give the banks money without any approval or oversight from Congress or anyone else.
By keeping short-term interest rates close to zero for the last two years, the Fed has enabled the banks to drastically reduce their interest expense on deposits, thereby inflating bank earnings by tens of billions of dollars each of the past two years. There's nothing wrong with banks earning a profit, but the banks' reduced interest expense comes right out of your pocket. The less you earn on your savings account or CD's, the more money the banks make -- and it's all because of this deliberate gift from the Fed.
According to the FDIC's latest figures, there are approximately $7.7T in interest-bearing deposits in US banks. This figure is little changed from year-end 2008, when US banks held approximately $7.6T in deposits. In other words, there are slightly more deposits being held now than two years ago just after the crisis hit, but the total amount of interest banks have paid on deposits has changed dramatically over the past three years:
- 2008 $166B Paid in Interest on Deposits
- 2009 $99B Paid in Interest on Deposits
- 2010 $67B Paid in Interest on Deposits
With dramatically lower rates on roughly the same amount of interest-bearing deposits, banks have been able to reduce their expenses by over $165B. This isn't speculation. The numbers here are taken directly from the FDIC's own figures. Savers and depositors have been deprived, as a matter of policy, of over $165B in interest, which has gone instead to subsidize the profits at the big banks and the bonuses of the executives who run them. $165B amounts to over $500 for every man, woman and child in America, or over $900 for each and every taxpayer and each of their children. Taxpayers may have read in the headlines that the big banks have paid back all the bailout money, but the money being paid back is coming right out of their own pockets.
Go here to access the FDIC's reports (Standard Report #3 will give you the industry-wide totals):