PLUS: Another Bank Meltdown :: Detransition Denialism :: Turnkey Tyranny :: A Wee Clarification
Now Back to Your Regularly Scheduled Programming
On Tuesday, the American Prospect had the gall, the chutzpah, the unbelievable caucasity to publish a story that acknowledged Tucker Carlson’s long history of bringing anti-corporate, anti-war, populist messages to the largest cable news audience in the country. Bringing a fresh, nuanced perspective to readers unlikely to have encountered it within their partisan bubbles used to be considered good journalism. But in 2023, when journalism aims not to educate but to propagandize, it’s an act of heresy.
Thankfully, this transgression did not escape the watchful eye of Regime Media Ombudsman Jamelle Bouie, who tweeted his displeasure. That prompted a cascade of invective from liberal right-thinking Twitter, whose feelings about Tucker align nicely with the Pentagon’s.
By the next morning, David Dayen, the Prospect’s executive editor, had issued a public apology/hostage letter for allowing his reporters to diverge from the Approved Narrative. “Ultimately our readers hold us accountable, and specifically, they hold me accountable,” Dayen groveled, in a perfect description of audience capture.
Dayen promptly atoned for his crime by publishing a piece on Thursday by two American Prospect editors that branded Carlson a “neofascist,” a “threat to democracy,” and a supporter of “white supremacists.”
Ah, now that’s more like it.
Another Bank Bites the Dust
First Republic Bank is on the verge of collapse.
First Republic is a San Francisco-based regional bank that caters to rich people. The bank built its business on personalized care, extraordinarily low interest rates (Mark Zuckerberg once refinanced his mortgage with First Republic at 1.05%), and free fresh baked cookies.
It’s a business model that thrived back when money was cheap. But after the Fed started jacking up interest rates, a few things happened.
First, wealthy customers started moving their money out of their low-interest checking and savings accounts and putting them into places where they could take advantage of those higher rates. Second, all those low-interest mortgage loans the bank had made to affluent customers became a problem in this new high-interest environment, as the bank’s profits were locked into those anemic rates. And third, Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank imploded.
Like SVB and Signature, First Republic had tons of wealthy customers with very large deposits, well in excess of $250,000 FDIC insurance limits. Almost 70% of First Republic’s deposits were uninsured. (First Republic encouraged this trend by offering better rates to wealthy borrowers who were willing to move their deposits into the bank.) After SVB and Signature folded, customers got scared, and started moving their uninsured deposits out of First Republic, creating a run on the bank. Customers pulled out more than $100 billion in a matter of weeks.
In March, First Republic got a massive infusion of $30 billion from a consortium of the world’s biggest banks to stem the bleeding. But because of the rate hikes, it’s paying significantly more interest on those huge loans,* even while bringing in slim profits on the paltry fixed-interest rate mortgage loans it has made over the years. The bank is paying more out in liabilities than it’s accruing in assets. That’s a broken business model.
There are two likely endings to this tale: a government takeover and fire sale, or a total bank failure. It doesn’t appear that the best outcome for First Republic — an acquisition by another bank — is going to happen.
The good news is that given the very particular clientele of SVB, Signature and First Republic, it’s likely that this is a crisis that’s restricted to this boutique banking sector, and not systemic. At least, let’s hope not.
*A reader points out: “The $30B from the 11 large rescue banks was deposited, not loaned, and is uninsured. If FR goes down the drain, so does the $30B, unless the FDIC makes all depositors whole.”
He’s right. What I should have said is that First Republic has to pay out on those deposits at a higher interest rate than what it’s bringing in from the mortgage loans it has made. It’s a meaningful difference, but the upshot is the same.
See No Evil, Hear No Evil
Oregon state legislators want to require insurance companies to pay for
sex change gender reassignment surgeries for those who wish to transition to another sex, but not for the medical expenses of those who come to regret it.