Profit From TARP? Not So Much

Reporter Matt Taibbi sees through the smoke and mirrors surrounding the supposed “profit” taxpayers have made from the Treasury’s TARP program.

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It was inevitable that the same people who pushed through the multi-trillion-dollar bailout of Wall Street would come out later on and tell us what a great idea theirs turned out to be, in retrospect and under the light of evidentiary examination. And we’re getting that now, with a pair of reports, the above one in the New York Times and another in the Financial Times, telling us the bailout is working because the government has made some money on TARP. They came to this conclusion by quoting Fed officials, who apparently calculated how much interest the Fed earned on TARP investments above what it would have earned on T-bills. The amount so far, according to these worthy gentlemen: $14 billion.

This is sort of like calculating the returns on a mutual fund by only counting the stocks in the fund that have gone up. Forgetting for a moment that TARP is only slightly relevant in the entire bailout scheme — more on that in a moment — the TARP calculations are a joke, apparently leaving out huge future losses from AIG and Citigroup and others in the red. Since only a small portion of the debt has been put down by the best borrowers, and since the borrowers in the worst shape haven’t retired their obligations yet, it’s crazy to make any conclusions about TARP, pure sophistry. Moreover, a think tank set up to analyze TARP, Ethisphere, calculated in June that TARP was still $148 billion down overall, a debt of over $1200 per American. To start talking about what a success TARP is now is beyond meaningless.

…it speaks to a level of intellectual desperation and magical-thinking unusual even for a banker in the subprime/MBS era

Read the rest…

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