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Rise in Lending Shows the Weakness of Trump’s Dodd-Frank Attacks

CHARLESTON, WV - MAY 5: Republican presidential candidate DonalCHARLESTON, WV - MAY 5: Republican presidential candidate Donal
Donald Trump addresses his supporters during a rally at the Charleston Civic Center on May 5, 2016 in Charleston, WVThe Washington Post/Getty Images

Regulation does not appear to be holding back the banks, or the economy, as much as Donald Trump thinks.

Bank lending rose by nearly $100 billion in the first three months of the year, the biggest increase in a first quarter since the financial crisis. It was nearly double the $52 billion increase in lending in the first quarter a year ago. What’s more, in the past year lending by U.S. banks had grown by just over $575 billion, or $140 billion more than it increased in the same quarter a year ago.

The jump in lending offers yet another good sign for the economy. And if the Federal Reserve is paying attention, it might represent another signal that the U.S. economy is healthy and that Janet Yellen & Co. may be closer to raising interest rates again. The news also indicates that the GOP frontrunner’s recent comments about bank regulation are off.

In an interview earlier this week with Reuters, Donald Trump said that Dodd-Frank, the banking regulation law that was instituted after the financial crisis, has made it “very hard for bankers to loan money.” In fact, since Dodd-Frank was passed, lending has increased by roughly $1.6 trillion.

Trump also said that Dodd-Frank was making it very tough for companies to do business, “especially with respect to lending to businesses.” The candidate said that he would likely get rid of most of the law if he were elected president, and he said he would submit a proposal explaining what he would do instead sometime in the next few weeks.

The U.S. economy has recovered since the financial crisis, and it’s impossible to know how much lending would have increased without Dodd-Frank. Indeed, the amount of cash that banks hold collectively is up nearly $700 billion in the same time. At least some of the jump has to do with the fact that Dodd-Frank was passed after lending had dropped considerably. But even factoring in that plunge, there are now $800 billion more in bank loans outstanding than there were before the financial crisis, when everyone seems to agree there was less financial regulation.

Recently, business lending—the kind that Donald Trump says Dodd-Frank has hurt the most—has increased rapidly. Lending to commercial and industrial companies, which often referred to as C&I lending, jumped $71 billion in the first quarter, and it is up 60% since Congress passed Dodd-Frank. In the first quarter, C&I lending eclipsed residential mortgage lending for the first time since the 1980s.

“I mean there are some things in Dodd-Frank that can stay but overall Dodd-Frank has been very bad,” Trump told Reuters.

Not quite.