Like Frankenstein, too-big-to-fail banks didn't pop out of nowhere. We created them -- or, more specifically, financial lobbyists and our purported representatives in Washington did (to read about how this happened, read this article).
But aside from the sheer size of the nation's largest banks, one of the most startling facts is how quickly they consolidated power over the nation's financial assets. The chart below depicts just that. As you can see, starting in 1994 (the same year that Congress removed restrictions on interstate banking), the market share of big banks began an aggressive ascent that continues today, going from roughly 35% of industry assets to more than 80% at the end of last year.
Lest there be any doubt, this is what the too-big-to-fail debate is all about. Do we want only a handful of lenders -- in this case, JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM), Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), Citigroup (NYSE:C), and Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) -- to control the narrows, if you will, of American finance? Is that a threat to our savings? Our economy? Or even our financial freedom? Chime in on these questions in the comment section below.
John Maxfield owns shares of Bank of America. The Motley Fool recommends Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo. The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.