Progressives blame Trump banking regulations rollback for bank collapse

March 14, 2023

Progressives, specifically Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), are blaming former President Donald Trump for the Silicon Valley Bank collapse because of a 2018 move to loosen banking regulations put in place after the Great Recession of 2008.

Warren said Monday on "The Rachel Maddow Show" that Trump's action was one of three parts to the collapse:

The way to understand this crisis is that it has three players. The first is Congress and President Trump, who says, let’s weaken the regulation, which hit really hard. The second part is the regulators themselves and, in particular, the Fed and Jerome Powell, the chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank, who took that change in the laws and he ran with it. In fact, he ran further than a lot of people even though the law let him. In tailoring the oversight of those banks in order to make it as weak as possible.

She also blamed the banks for loading up on risk in order to be more profitable and give themselves higher salaries. She continued,

“Part three, which is those executives, those bank CEOs who lobbied hard to get this change in law. Those are the ones who, when the window opened, they were ready to go. They went out, and they decided to load up on risk. Why? They loaded up on risk because it made their banks more profitable, and it meant it made them have higher salaries. They got to rule over bigger banks. They got big bonuses. They brought in their friends and did all that by taking on more risk. It worked. SVB increased its profitability of the last three years by 40%. They took on all of the risks and make themselves more profitable right up to the day that the bank exploded. That is the story.”

First Warren, then Sanders

"Let's be clear. The failure of Silicon Valley Bank is a direct result of an absurd 2018 bank deregulation bill signed by Donald Trump that I strongly opposed," Sanders said in a statement on Sunday that agreed with Warren's comments.

The bill that Warren and Sanders mentioned is the  Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, which was passed in 2018 and changed the Dodd-Frank law of 2010 to exclude small and medium-sized banks with assets under $250 billion.

At the time of the collapse, Silicon Valley Bank had $212 billion in assets, which would have excluded it from the requirements, which included having more cash on hand to handle a run on the bank.

But while it's obvious that progressive Democrats would want to blame Trump for the collapse, independent experts are saying not so fast.

Politifact rebuts Trump blame--mostly

Politifact has fact-checked Warren and Sanders' statements and found that blaming Trump is an oversimplification of the SVB collapse.

While the 2018 law might have been a contributing factor in the collapse, experts said, warning signs were ignored by the San Francisco Federal Reserve and that SVB should not have been allowed to buy so many bonds at low interest rates.

"Why did the San Francisco Federal Reserve hold back when everyone knew that Silicon Valley Bank was heavily exposed to the tech industry and its investments were deteriorating?" Director of the Global Financial Markets Center and law professor Lawrence G. Baxter said. "The triggers for regulatory action, still in place even after the 2018 partial deregulation, were not followed."

"Every systemic collapse provides all sides with bases for finger pointing,"Baxter added.

Woke investments didn't sink bank either

Politifact also said that accusations from the right that SVB's "woke" investments led to its collapse was untrue.

"No, I don't see this playing any role," American University professor Hilary Allen said. "For this critique to have any plausibility, Silicon Valley Bank would have to have made 'woke' investments that failed and caused it to implode."

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