Friday, February 12, 2010

Why the banks aren't lending

President Obama in his State of the Union address:
We should start where most new jobs do –- in small businesses, companies that begin when -- companies that begin when an entrepreneur -- when an entrepreneur takes a chance on a dream, or a worker decides it's time she became her own boss. Through sheer grit and determination, these companies have weathered the recession and they're ready to grow. But when you talk to small businessowners in places like Allentown, Pennsylvania, or Elyria, Ohio, you find out that even though banks on Wall Street are lending again, they're mostly lending to bigger companies. Financing remains difficult for small businessowners across the country, even those that are making a profit.

So tonight, I'm proposing that we take $30 billion of the money Wall Street banks have repaid and use it to help community banks give small businesses the credit they need to stay afloat.
Meanwhile, here's what actual businesspeople are saying:
Blackstone is a major client of many of the largest banks around the world. And if there is one common theme that I have heard in conversations with senior bank executives over the past several months, it is that their fundamental business model is under siege. They are uncertain about the amount of equity capital needed to run their enterprises. They are uncertain about the amount of reserves required for various business lines. They are uncertain about the potential new requirements for special reserves they will have to retain in good times to use in bad times. They are uncertain about the ongoing level of taxes they will be paying.

They are facing various proposals for what are described as new fees, which are the equivalent of new taxes. They are facing proposals to limit the number of businesses they will be allowed to be in and thus are contemplating having to shrink their banks and divest themselves of otherwise profitable assets. They are facing restrictions on what they can pay their people and are facing the possibility that many talented employees will leave for other financial institutions outside the public eye.
This is so typical. Politicians interfere in the economy, express dismay at the results, and then propose even grander interventions to fix the mess they created.

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