If you've been following the soap opera known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), you know that the government is complaining that banks aren't increasing their lending enough, despite big infusions of government cheese. Well, now the banks are revealing what's stopping them from lending more -- the government.

Bear with me now. The banks claim that they want to lend, but the government is making them hold onto more reserves -- in other words, making sure that they stay solvent -- while at the same time requiring them to lend primarily to creditworthy borrowers. The nerve of that Uncle Sam!

Personally, I think they have all just gotten a bit lazy. After all, banks from Citigroup (NYSE:C) to Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) to Regions Financial (NYSE:RF) had borrowers fighting over the chance to take out a loan from them a few years ago. And set with the assumption that house prices couldn't fall (perish the thought!), these banks were willing to lend to pretty much anybody and everybody at rock-bottom rates.

Now it's time to get back to the basics and do what companies in other industries, from Kellogg (NYSE:K) to Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL), do -- namely, track down qualified, paying customers and convince them that buying your product is a good idea. And while it should go without saying that you do this while making a profit and not putting your company's financial future at risk, maybe we should remind banks of that small detail.

On The Motley Fool's CAPS service, even the more favored banks like Wells Fargo and Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) are only rated a mediocre three stars. Maybe if they spent a little less time complaining about how the government is supposedly hampering them, and spent a little more time tightening the reins and getting back to businesses, we'd start to see a little life on banking income statements again.

Further financial Foolishness:

Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer owns shares of Bank of America, but he does not own shares of any of the other companies mentioned. Bank of America is a former Motley Fool Income Investor pick. The Fool's disclosure policy has never once been caught with its pants down. Of course, it doesn't actually wear pants …