Will U.S. be forced to nationalize banks?

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. government's latest bank rescue, this time a multi-billion dollar lifeline handed to Bank of America, has led to more talk of what once would have been unthinkable -- European-style nationalization of major American banks.

Few see the government nationalizing the entire banking system the way Sweden did in the 1990s, but the U.S. is growing more willing to put significant pressure on the largest banks.

Over time, the government could exercise the same day-to-day control over major U.S. banks as with IndyMac Bank, a failed California thrift that the U.S. government operated for much of last year.

"We're nationalizing banks one at a time now. The real question is, will the biggest ones need to be nationalized?," said Roy Smith, professor at New York University's Stern School of Business.

The U.S. banking system desperately needs capital. Estimates of the shortfall range from $700 billion to more than $2 trillion.

That money will not come from the private sector as long as the pending losses are all but impossible to estimate.

Without private investors bailing out the sector, whose functioning is key to reviving an economy mired in recession, the U.S. government will have little option but to step up.

In earlier stages of the meltdown, the United States tried to penalize investors to the smallest extent possible when it intervened.

When Bear Stearns & Cos Inc failed, the government brokered a deal that ultimately resulted in Bear shareholders getting money, while debt holders lost nothing.

After that deal, regulators got tough, and let Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc fail. Chaos ensued.

Two months later, when the market lost confidence in Citigroup, the government bought preferred shares and warrants, giving it exposure similar to owning shares without diluting shareholders.

The transition team of president-elect Barack Obama, who takes office on Tuesday, has said it will seek more concessions from banks seeking capital than the Bush administration did.

Lawrence Summers, director-designate of the National Economic Council, promised congressional leaders this week to limit dividend payments and executive compensation at banks that are bailed out.

And there are signs that Citigroup (C.N) is facing significant government pressure. It has sold off a stake in the brokerage business that Chief Executive Vikram Pandit said he "loved" just a few weeks ago.

And the bank broke with the rest of the industry and supported bankruptcy legislation that detractors say will give consumers an incentive to file for bankruptcy.

People familiar with the situation said that regulators have been exerting more pressure on the bank since late November, when Citigroup got a second round of funding under the U.S. Treasury's Troubled Asset Relief Program.

That $20 billion was on top of the $25 billion that Citigroup and other banks received in October.

And Bank of America, which received more help from the government in an anticipated announcement late on Thursday, is expected to face more government scrutiny as well.

A FAR CRY

But this sort of quiet exertion of authority is a far cry from full nationalization, where the government seizes all or nearly all of a bank's shares, and makes day-to-day decisions and explicitly guarantees the company's liabilities.

There are reasons to question whether full nationalization of the biggest banks is likely any time soon.

Nationalizing just one of JPMorgan Chase & Co, Bank of America Corp, or Citigroup, which together have about half the assets in the banking system, would double the Federal Reserve's balance sheet instantly.

That could weigh on the dollar, which has already fallen some 17 percent against the Japanese yen since August.

And if the government were to nationalize one large lender, shareholders would likely lose confidence in other marginal banks.

"If you nationalize Citigroup, you'll have to nationalize 10 other banks. It won't just stop with one," said Marc Snyder, senior financial stock analyst at Symphony Asset Management in San Francisco.

The banking industry itself is obviously opposed to nationalization.

"If it weren't for the political power of the industry, nationalizing is what you'd want to do. It's almost a no-brainer," said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

But over time, the government will likely have little choice but to step in more completely, said Sean Egan, founding principal at rating agency Egan-Jones Ratings.

"It's a slow-moving train wreck, and nothing can be done," he said.

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Glenn Beck: One TERRIFYING thing is clear no matter who caused the Nord Stream pipeline leaks

Photo by Danish Defence/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Evidence strongly suggests that the Nord Stream pipeline leaks were the result of sabotage, and U.S. and European officials have been working to discover who could be behind the explosions that damaged the natural gas pipelines running from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea.

Was it Russia? Ukraine? Germany? But no matter who carried this out, it has put the entire world in grave danger, because if this is indeed an attack, it means that non-military key infrastructure outside Ukraine is now on the "target menu," warned Glenn Beck on the radio program.

"It is so important for you to understand, this is now a non-military key infrastructure that has been destroyed," Glenn explained. "If Russia thinks we did it, they've already said, 'Nukes are now on the table.' That gives us a green light to use nukes," he added.

"This is non-military key infrastructure outside of the borders of Ukraine. To date, as far as we know, combat targets were either in Ukraine, or were military targets hit inside of Russia by Ukrainian Air Force or special forces. But the target menu now includes key civilian infrastructure: electricity, water utilities, energy production. That makes Russia more dangerous than ever. And that would be true no matter who carried out the attack," Glenn stated.

Now, the Russians are saying the Unted States did it, and the U.S. is saying it was Russia. But no matter who carried out the attack, "We are facing a Cuban Missile Crisis," said Glenn.

"This could end up being the biggest story of our lifetime and ... if it isn't played calmly by every side, this could be World War III," he continued. "Russia has already said that this gives them the right to use nuclear weapons as soon as they find out for sure who did it. That would be catastrophic, absolutely catastrophic."

Watch the video clip below to hear more from Glenn. Can't watch? Download the podcast here.

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The White House can try to spin inflation all day long (and it's trying very hard). But you feel the effects of President Joe Biden’s disastrous leadership every time you go to the grocery store or fill up your car. The American economy is on the brink of disaster after less than two years of a Democrat-controlled Congress and White House. And they’ve got plenty more destruction in the works.

The bottom line is they WANT you to get used to a lower living standard. So, what do you do? How do you prepare? What will food and fuel cost in the months ahead? What would the next Great Depression look like? How are you going to feel the effects of ESG and the Left’s war on oil?

On Wednesday night's "Glenn TV," Glenn Beck brings in a panel of economic experts to answer those questions. He’s joined by Carol Roth, former Wall Street investment banker and author of “The War on Small Business,” and Jim Iuorio, a small business owner, stockbroker, and managing director of TJM Institutional Services. While both forecast the worst-case scenario for average Americans, they also offer a glimmer of hope to get us out of this mess.

Watch the full episode below:


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The FBI recently sent more than a dozen armed agents to the home of well-known pro-life activist Mark Houck to arrest him for allegedly violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances or FACE Act. Now the father of seven faces up to 11 years in prison over claims that he blocked a man from entering an abortion clinic and shoved him when he wouldn't stop verbally harassing Mark's 12-year-old son. Now, if that doesn't sound insane enough, this all happened after local authorities dropped the case. So, what's the full story here?

Attorney Peter Breen joined Glenn Beck on the radio program Tuesday to tell the family's side of the story, including how the case was already "won" three years ago, and how, after receiving a target letter from the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Mark's legal team agreed to cooperate fully, only to hear nothing back until the day the FBI showed up on Mark's doorstep.

Breen also explained how the FBI has tried to downplay "abuse of power" claims, accusing Mark's wife of making "inaccurate claims" about the terrifying experience.

"Ryan-Marie, who is Mark's wife, she thought she saw 25 [FBI agents.] The FBI came back and said it wasn't 25, it was no more than 15 or 20 heavily armed federal agents. And she had called them a 'SWAT team' because she's a lay person. I don't know the difference between a SWAT team and a bunch of heavily armed, armored, and shield-bearing federal agents," Breen said.

According to Fox News, a senior FBI source said:

There may have been 15-20 agents at the scene, but denied 25 were there. The agents who came to the door had guns out and at the ready, according to this FBI source, but the guns were never pointed at Houck or his family and were lowered or holstered as soon as Houck was taken into custody. Houck was handcuffed with a belly chain.

"So, yeah, they had guns drawn and pointed at Mark in front of his wife and their children. And that whole show of force was done against a man who was not a drug lord, not a mafia boss, but instead, a law-abiding pillar of the community whose attorney said, 'we'll bring him in if you decide to charge, even though you have no case.'"

Breen went on to assert that he believes Congress "needs to" hold Attorney General Merrick Garland accountable for the arrest. "I can't imagine that those 20 federal agents were excited about being called out to a peaceful man's home, guns drawn," he said.

In the video clip below, Breen goes on the explain what he believes should happen next, and why Houck's arrest "should frighten all of us." Can't watch? Download the podcast here.

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Gavin McInnes broke the internet last month when his live show was interrupted, and it appeared that he was arrested. He broke the internet again a few weeks later when he admitted that the arrest was staged as part of what was intended to be an elaborate prank.

McInnes joined Glenn Beck on "Glenn TV" to explain the real reason behind his disastrous prank.

"This was a $10,000 joke. I lost 100 subscribers because of it, but I was going away to Paris for a week because my daughter is going to college and I thought let's make it interesting," McInnes said of his decision to fake an on-air arrest in the middle of his live "Get Off My Lawn" podcast on August 25.

"There was a method to the madness, with the prank ... my point was, first of all, this is happening to people in real-time. Tim Poole has been swatted a million times," he explained to Glenn. "The thought police are in full effect. I also wanted to lampoon the media's bloodlust for us suffering."

Glenn played a clip of the now-infamous hoax while McInnes explained what was really going on behind the scenes, including how his very drunk friend "Unrelia-Bill" was supposed to act the part of the arresting officer but ended up being much too intoxicated (at "2 pm") to speak even a few lines, and how smugly gleeful the "far left" was when they thought McInnes had actually been arrested.

Watch the video clip below to catch more of the conversation:


Want more from Glenn Beck?

To enjoy more of Glenn’s masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis, and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution, and live the American dream.