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Friday, October 1, 2010

$700 Billion TARP Price Tag Reduced to $50 Billion

When President Bush proposed the $700 billion bailout two years ago, I had misgivings. So I appreciate this reminder from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner that we're coming out a lot better than we might have. As the Troubled Assets Relief Program ends Sunday, projected losses in the worst-case scenario are $50 billion. With a couple lucky breaks, we might even make a small profit.

Senator Bob Bennett, who lost the Republican nomination in Utah because of conservative rage over TARP, thumbs his nose thus:

“For those who were screaming at me — and screaming was the operative word — ‘You’ve just saddled our children and grandchildren with $700 billion,’ I said, ‘No, I haven’t,” Mr. Bennett said in an interview.

“My career is over,” he added. “But I do hope that we can get the word out that TARP, number one, did save the world from a financial meltdown and, number two, did so in a manner that, I believe, won’t cost the taxpayer anything. And even if it did not all get paid back, it was still the thing to do” [Jackie Calmes, "TARP Bailout to Cost Less Than Once Anticipated," New York Times, 2010.09.30].

The economy still needs work. We have an awful lot of restructuring to do. But we have to admit: TARP worked a lot better than a lot of us thought it would.


  1. A couple of things to remember:

    1) When it was sold to Congress the proposed structure was to be a purchase of Toxic Assets. When Paulson implemented, it was used to inject capital directly into banks which was a significantly lower risk strategy (plus it took pressure off the FDIC fund).

    2) I think it postponed certain decisions that need to be made to make the system safer.

    3) The Financial Reg "reform" actually exacerbated the decisions that have not been made in #2.

    In the end, we are in more precarious long-term shape because of #2 and #3 than we were when we passed TARP.

  2. Troy, Reaganonics guru, David Stockman thinks the GOP is completely out to lunch, if not malfeasant.

    Did you catch this interview with Robert Reich, Cory?

  3. Stockman never was and isn't an adherent to Reaganomics (supply side economics). He belongs to a branch of the party which would significantly cut government expenditures to balance the budget, significantly reform Social Security including allowing private accounts, etc.

    He is equally critical of Democrats ability to control spending. He was especially opposed to the Stimulus.

  4. You actually believe the guy who couldn't do his taxes right when he says we're going to make money on the TARP.

    I'm seeing pre-election ploy here.

  5. Ploy? If the numbers are there, how is it a ploy? Evidence?

  6. Prior to the swearing in of Obama, I projected the losses would be minimal with the exception of the investment in the auto companies. I stand by that projection.

    Of the $187 Billion still outstanding, $57Billion is with banks, $47 Billion with AIG, and $69B with the auto companies.

  7. The feds took the risk for certain investors when the tarp bill was passed. The citizens don't exist so AIG and Citi will have someone to purchase worthless paper investments.

    This bill damaged the credibility of the Federal government. And that is more valuable than breaking even on AIG common stock.

  8. The whole article from Market Watch is interesting. It paints much of the current GOP propaganda on TARP and Stimulus as myths.

    "However, for Republicans, everything changed with Barack Obama's election, and they've spent the last 18 months chanting over and over that stimulus can't work, by definition. A sizable number of people now believe it. A majority of Americans tell pollsters that the stimulus did not help, and a sizable minority says it actually made the economy worse.

    But it's not so. It's a myth.

    Most independent experts -- including the Congressional Budget Office and conservative economists -- who've looked at it, agree with the White House that the economy would be much worse without the stimulus.

    Here's how stimulus works in theory: In a recession, buyers take a holiday and businesses downsize. Consumers reduce their spending, and businesses lay off the workers who are no longer needed. Those layoffs reduce consumer spending even more, so more workers are laid off. Millions of people lose their jobs, and put their lives on hold."



  9. Thad, you point to a reason I still get an ookie feeling about the bailouts. They were fundamentally unfair, rescuing a few favored players from their bad decisions. I as much as anyone else would like to see the corporate fat cats held accountable for their irresponsibility... but could we have afforded to do it by letting AIG, Citi, GM, et al. collapse and enduring a worse recession?


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