There is a great article and video on Yahoo Finance that talks about how all the big Wall Street Banks are receiving loans from the government at near 0% interest and then the banks are turning around and lending that money back to the government at 3-4% interest. Huh? That is insane! My new motto for government…”Stop the insanity!”
The article went on to say:
But these days, trading isn’t risky at all. In fact, it’s safer than walking down the street.
Because the US government is lending money to the big banks at near-zero interest rates. And the banks are then turning around and lending that money back to the US government at 3%-4% interest rates, making 3%+ on the spread. What’s more, the banks are leveraging this trade, borrowing at least $10 for every $1 of equity capital they have, to increase the size of their bets. Which means the banks can turn relatively small amounts of equity into huge profits–by borrowing from the taxpayer and then lending back to the taxpayer.
Why is the US government still lending banks money at near-zero interest rates? Ostensibly, for the same reason that the government bailed out the banks in the first place: So the banks will lend money to small businesses, big businesses, and other participants in the “real economy.”
But the banks aren’t lending money to the real economy: Private sector lending has fallen off a cliff.
And one reason private sector lending has fallen off a cliff is that lending money to the private sector is risky. Lending money to the government, meanwhile, is nearly risk-free. So the banks are just lending money back to the government (by scarfing up US Treasuries), collecting a nearly risk-free 3% spread, and then leveraging up this bet 10-15 times.
The video is a must watch! Just for the record, my 8 year old understands finances better than the U.S. Government.