As the Troubled Asset Relief Program winds down, post-mortems for the program are rolling in. According to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, the bailout effort — which was launched by former President George W. Bush in 2008 and officially ended last month — will end up costing taxpayers a mere $50 billion, rather than the $350 billion that the Congressional Budget Office pegged it at last year.
In a Washington Post article, Geithner lays out what he calls the “Five myths about TARP,” including:
1. The TARP cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars.
…[T]he cost of the TARP, which succeeded in reducing the overall economic damage, will be considerably lower than once feared. In fact, the direct budget cost of the program and our full investment in the insurer AIG is likely to come in well under $50 billion — $300 billion less than estimated by the Congressional Budget Office last year. And taxpayers are likely to receive an impressive return (totaling tens of billions) on the investments made under the TARP outside the housing market. …
3. The TARP was a quick fix for the market meltdown but left our financial system weak.
The U.S. financial system has been completely overhauled and is in a much stronger position today than before the crisis. In fact, the weakest parts of the system are gone. Of the 15 largest financial institutions before the crisis, four are no longer independent entities. Five were forced to restructure. Two have altered their legal form and are subject to much stricter federal oversight. Ten have seen major changes in senior management and boards of directors.
Geither also writes that TARP helped prevent a “broader collapse and losses of millions more jobs and trillions more dollars in income and savings” and that, despite claims that the program is part of an effort by the government to “assert more government control over the economy,” the administration has focused on getting “out of the private sector as quickly as possible.”
Five myths about TARP, according to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner [Washington Post]