TARP Official Resents That No One Ever Mentions Any Of The Program's Good Qualities

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Criticism that “moral hazard” is the main legacy of U.S. taxpayer-funded bailouts is unfair, a Treasury Department official said. “We recognize that moral hazard is a real and significant concern” in the Troubled Asset Relief Program, Timothy Massad, acting assistant secretary for financial stability, said in a hearing before a House Oversight Committee panel today. “But to suggest that it is TARP’s main legacy is to ignore the facts, and to confuse the response to a crisis with the need to address the causes of the crisis.” Massad was responding to criticism from Neil Barofsky, special inspector general for TARP. Barofsky told the House panel’s TARP subcommittee today that the program’s “most significant legacy may be the exacerbation of the problems posed by ‘too big to fail,’ particularly given the manner in which Treasury executed the bailout.” [Bloomberg]

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TARP Charts!

The Federal Reserve has this new paper out about TARP that does a bit of highly suggestive eyebrow raising about some banks that shall remain nameless. They start from the awkward fact that TARP wanted everything in one bag but didn't want the bag to be heavy, or as they put it: The conflicted nature of the TARP objectives reflects the tension between different approaches to the financial crisis. While recapitalization was directed at returning banks to a position of financial stability, these banks were also expected to provide macro-stabilization by converting their new cash into risky loans. TARP was a use of public tax-payer funds and some public opinion argued that the funds should be used to make loans, so that the benefit of the funds would be passed through directly to consumers and businesses. So you might reasonably ask: were TARP funds locked in the vault to return the recipient banks to financial health, or blown on loans to risky ventures, or other? Well, here is Figure 1 (aggregate commercial and industrial loans from commercial banks in the U.S.): So ... not loaned then. But that's not important! The authors are actually looking not primarily at aggregate amounts of loans but at riskiness of loans and here's what they get: