Basically the whole concept of a bank is an act of trust: I will give you, the bank, my money as a deposit because I trust that you’ll keep my money safe and that when I want it back in the form of withdrawals, you’ll give it to me. This trust allows you, the bank, to assemble all those deposits and invest them in stuff that will generate profits for you.
That trust is now at an all-time low.
Politico reports that a new poll from Gallup shows just 21% of Americans have a “great deal” of confidence in the major banking institutions, and that more than half have “little or no confidence” in them.
This is troubling since to lose faith in the American banking system is to basically lose faith the American economic engine altogether. The engine that has driven the wealth spike over the last 30 years hasn’t been exploding GDP and productivity as much as genius investing coupled with near-religious faith that the value of all investments, from stocks to homes, would go only up, forever.
The crisis of trust comes four years after the biggest financial meltdown since 1929 and a month after JPMorgan Chase announced a fresh $2 billion dollar loss on the exact kind of credit securities that tanked in 2008.
What Americans have learned is that the banks are literally not allowed to fail. Unlike individuals who make bad investments, when banks make bad investments they get bailed out with huge infusions of taxpayer cash, even as individuals’ investments in the markets that banks helped inflate are simply wiped out.
Bloomberg reports today that Michael F. Price, the man who initiated a Chase Bank merger that eventually led to the JPMorgan Chase merger, is now saying that the giant banking conglomerates need to be split up. Bloomberg calls the giant banks a “broken model” and says they’d be worth more split apart than in their current behemoth states.
Americans are right to have no confidence in the banks—but the banks probably aren’t going anywhere. They are too big to fail and will be propped up no matter what. But they should not have trust that the banking industry’s wellbeing is tethered to their own. As we’ve seen with the the mortgage crisis, ensuing bailout and return to profitability, often when banks win, people lose.