The giant banks aren't lending much to the people who need it. Fortune pointed out in February that smaller banks are stepping in to fill the lending void left by the giant banks' current hesitancy to make loans. Indeed, the article points out that the only reason that smaller banks haven't been able to expand and thrive is that the too-big-to-fails have decreased competition.
Federal Reserve Governor Daniel K. Tarullo said in June:
The importance of traditional financial intermediation services, and hence of the smaller banks that typically specialize in providing those services, tends to increase during times of financial stress. Indeed, the crisis has highlighted the important continuing role of community banks...But the government - instead of breaking up the giant banks who aren't lending to the people who need loans - is trying to prop them up using permanent bailouts. See this, this, this and this.
For example, while the number of credit unions has declined by 42 percent since 1989, credit union deposits have more than quadrupled, and credit unions have increased their share of national deposits from 4.7 percent to 8.5 percent. In addition, some credit unions have shifted from the traditional membership based on a common interest to membership that encompasses anyone who lives or works within one or more local banking markets. In the last few years, some credit unions have also moved beyond their traditional focus on consumer services to provide services to small businesses, increasing the extent to which they compete with community banks.
- instead of separating different business activities (such as
depository banking functions and speculative investments) - the
government is actually allowing companies to get involved in a wider variety of business activities.
For example, economist Simon Johnson points out that Goldman Sachs recently converted to a "financial holding company", allowing Goldman to borrow money from the Fed at essentially no cost, and then invest it in any thing it wants. Johnson gives an example: Goldman bought a large share of the stock of a Chinese automaker. If the investment succeeds, Goldman will reap the profits. If it fails, the American taxpayers are on the hook.
And Goldman is apparently profiting from its combination of roles as both an investment brokerage house for other investors and as a large speculative investor itself. Specifically, Goldman apparently delays trades it makes for its clients long enough to use that inside knowledge of who is buying or selling what to make speculative investments for itself, oftentimes taking the exact opposite position for itself and its largest clients as the position it is recommending to its Mom and Pop investor clients.
Why are politicians letting this happening?
We'll Have to Do It Ourselves
If the government isn't doing anything to fix this dangerous situation, we'll have to do it ourselves.
As a start, if Congress won't reimplement the Glass-Steagall Act (the Depression-era law which previously separated depository functions from speculative investing), let's manually separate these two types of businesses.
Simple: let's pull our money out of the too big to fails and put it into small community banks and credit unions.
The giant banks may still make bucketloads of cash on their casino style speculative gambling (for now, at least), but after we've moved our deposits to more responsible, smaller banks which don't gamble as much, then we will have manually separated depository banking functions from the giant banks' speculative investing.