By Matt Stoller, former Senior Policy Advisor to Rep. Alan Grayson and a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. You can reach him at stoller (at) gmail.com or follow him on Twitter at@matthewstoller
The Government Accountability Office continues its subtle war on the talking point used by Treasury that “TARP made money”. Here’s the GAO, with a report out today.
As of January 31, 2012, 341 institutions had exited CPP, almost half by repaying CPP with funds from other federal programs. Institutions continue to exit CPP, but the number of institutions missing scheduled dividend or interest payments has increased.
Much of the government-supplied TARP funding (to small banks) was replaced by the Small Business Lending Fund passed in 2010, which Republicans called “TARP 2.0”. The larger banks, however, where much of the bank-based credit creation in the economy takes place, didn’t use this program. Instead, they got an implicit subsidy of between $6B and $300B a year from the widespread belief that the government will not let their bondholders lose money.
The talking point that the Troubled Asset Relief Program made money for the taxpayer is an important structural argument for the Treasury Department and the political elements in the Obama White House. Yves Smith quoted an earlier GAO report on this phenomenon a few months ago.
Although Treasury regularly reports on the cost of TARP programs and has enhanced such reporting over time, GAO’s analysis of Treasury press releases about specific programs indicate that information about estimated lifetime costs and income are included only when programs are expected to result in lifetime income.
Our banking system is still reliant on the government for support. Officials can claim that TARP made money, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that this is a way of avoiding a description of the actual policy framework.