They're Baaack: U.S. Banks Had Their Second-Best Year Ever in 2012

U.S. banks celebrated their second-most-profitable year in 2012 with a whopping $141 billion in net income last year. That's scarcely smaller than the record, $145 billion, set just before the crash, in 2006, according to the FDIC.

I wondered: What do the last three decades in bank profits look like? Based on FDIC data (and adjusting for inflation), they look like this.

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 10.33.47 AM.png

This weekend, Evan Soltas drew a wonderful graph showing that the financial industry takes home half a third of all corporate profits -- up from 10 percent after World War II. When you build an economy that subsidizes debt through homeownership, gives preferential treatment to investment income, and guarantees that the biggest banks will never fail, you get what you ask for. A country where finance plays by a separate set of rules and runs away with a third of the profit.


Presented by

Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A Miniature 1950s Utopia

A reclusive artist built this idealized suburb to grapple with his painful childhood memories.

Video

Why Principals Matter

Nadia Lopez didn't think anybody cared about her school. Then the Internet heard her story.

Video

A History of Contraception

In the 16th century, men used linen condoms laced shut with ribbons.

Video

'A Music That Has No End'

In Spain, a flamenco guitarist hustles to make a modest living.

More in Business

Just In