Romans' Numeral: $79,000,000,000
A profit for taxpayers from the bank bailout? Could it be? So far, yes.
The Treasury Department has netted $79 billion in repayments, interest and dividends from the controversial Troubled Asset Relief Program passed into law almost a year ago. TARP is the acronym for the unpopular bank bailout that many thought was a boondoggle for greedy banks and a travesty for taxpayers.
But the Treasury Department says taxpayers, so far, are earning a return on that controversial investment. How much? We asked Treasury to break down the numbers for us:
Bailout Repayment: Cash Received
Also, Chrysler Financial has repaid its loan of $1.5 billion. On paper, at least, taxpayers have earned a tidy profit from the rising stocks of AIG, Citigroup and Bank of America, but the future of taxpayers' investment in those firms is far from certain. Losses on debts backed by the government for those institutions could swamp any profits at all. And huge cash infusions for GM and Chrysler to sustain them through their bankruptcies will not be repaid.
The situation for the banks is complicated. On the same day the New York Times front-page carries a story titled, "As Banks Repay Bailout Money, U.S. Sees Profit," the Wall Street Journal carries its own front-page story: "Raft of Deals For Failed Banks Puts U.S. on Hook for Billions."
Both are true. Yes the taxpayer is earning interest on its bank investments through the bailout and yes healthy banks are repaying the government for their investment. But at the same time, the banks that are failing are being sold off in some cases with guarantees that the taxpayer will backstop future losses tied to bad debt. Some 84 banks have failed so far this year and the FDIC has 416 banks on its troubled bank list.
Many analysts expect more bank failures in the months ahead. Indeed, banks could struggle and fail for two or more quarters after a recovery takes hold. Stay tuned. Nothing is simple and the outlook is treacherous for the banking industry. For now we'll take those dividends and profits, but it does not mean the banking problems are over.