December 18, 2012
Washington DC has two lumps of coal for community banks this Christmas season. First, a group of Senators used a dubious conclusion from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to raise a procedural point of order to kill a two-year extension of the Transaction Account Guarantee (TAG) program. TAG was an emergency measure enacted at the height of the financial crisis to temporarily extend unlimited FDIC deposit insurance to all non-interest bearing accounts. This program leveled a very small piece of the playing field, allowing community banks to keep deposits that would otherwise flee to the safety of megabanks declared to be Systemically Important Financial Institutions. While community banks fought to extend this temporary guarantee, the megabanks cynically sought to have it eliminated, knowing that these deposits would eventually migrate to the safe harbor provided by Too Big To Fail status. In the end, some Senators hypocritically hid behind the same CBO that they excoriated during the healthcare debate in order to do the bidding of their masters on Wall Street, to the detriment of Main Street. Sure, the Senators who killed TAG will claim that they were looking out for the taxpayer by ending a crisis-era “bailout”, but in fact they were eliminating competition for a favored constituent group, the Too Big To Fail banks.