Last Thursday, Bloomberg revealed a startling plan brewing in federal regulatory circles: a proposal to compel US banks to embrace the Federal Reserve’s discount window, ostensibly to brace for potential bank crises ahead. As Katanga Johnson highlighted, this move aims to destigmatize accessing this financial safety net—a lingering repercussion of last year’s regional bank fiascos.

This strategy echoes the playbook of the 2007 financial meltdown, where the Fed urged banks to access the discount window for direct loans, hoping to normalize the process for troubled institutions. But the reluctance to do so stems from a valid concern: accessing Fed support could trigger panic among depositors, sparking bank runs. In essence, the Fed aims to shield vulnerable banks from public scrutiny, but at what cost?

The Fed exacerbates moral hazard by coercing healthy banks to comply, leaving customers in the dark about potential risks. The regulator’s unease about bank fragility isn’t unfounded. With the Fed’s low-interest-rate environment pushing financial institutions towards risky assets like US treasuries, recent inflationary pressures have left many banks holding devalued bonds, contributing to the demise of Silicon Valley Bank.

Moreover, the commercial real estate market poses another threat, with regional banks heavily invested in mortgages. But changing consumer behaviors, accelerated by the pandemic, have turned traditional brick-and-mortar locations into liabilities. As a result, commercial real estate debt sits like a ticking time bomb on the balance sheets of regional banks nationwide.

These concerns prompted emergency measures last year, like the Bank Term Funding Program, which allowed banks to borrow using assets as collateral. Yet, as the Fed plans to phase out these measures, its push for increased use of the discount window underscores the gravity of the situation.

Meanwhile, Fed Chair Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen paint a rosy picture of the economy, touting its strength and downplaying inflationary pressures. But their optimistic facade crumbles under scrutiny, revealing a stark contrast between public pronouncements and behind-the-scenes preparations for financial turmoil.

As the 2024 election looms, expect a barrage of political rhetoric masking the actual state of the economy. While officials reassure the public of economic vigor, their actions speak volumes about underlying vulnerabilities. Brace yourselves for another year of deception as the nation grapples with the looming specter of financial instability.