Most Americans have a sense TARP was a badly managed program that bailed out "fat cat" bankers at the expense of U.S. taxpayers. Well, it's even worse than you think, according to Neil Barofsky, former special inspector general for TARP (SIGTARP).
Officials in both the Bush and Obama administrations took the attitude "bankers know best," Barofsky recalls. "It was somewhat shocking how much control big banks had over their own bailout [and] the overwhelming deference show by Treasury officials to the banks."
Much has been made about Barofsky's criticism of Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, who told CBS News he is "deeply offended" by how he's portrayed in Barofsky's book Bailout: An Inside Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street.
Barofsky pulled no punches in our earlier segment about the ongoing rate-rigging scandal. (See: "I Hope We See People In Handcuffs": Neil Barofsky Weighs in on LIBOR Scandal)
In the accompanying video, we focused more on TARP's failings to live up to its promise to help individual Americans, not just the big banks.
Congress never would've passed TARP if not for programs included in the program to help homeowners facing foreclosure and generally spur bank lending. "TARP was an abysmal failure on those very important goals the reason why they got that money to give to the banks in the first place," Barofsky says.
TARP "did help prevent financial Armageddon," he concedes. "But there's a reason why Congress required and Treasury promised TARP would do a lot more. It's not complicated to take hundreds of billions [of dollars] and pour them into institutions ... and they don't fail. You really can't evaluate TARP" exclusively on how it impacted the banks.
Similarly, Barofsky takes offense to Treasury's repeated proclamations that TARP has been profitable.
While the big banks have paid back their loans, the overall program is now projected to lose somewhere between $32 billion to $70 billion, with $109.1 billion owed as of June 30, according to SIGTARP. Most of those losses are tied to AIG -- Treasury still own 61% of the company -- but more than half of the 325 banks that received TARP aid have missed dividend or interest payments.
"The bottom line is [the government] still expects tens of millions of losses on TARP," Barofsky says. "The losses are a lot less than originally anticipated but this resorting to trickery really shows you they're trying to cover up how badly TARP has failed in its other goals of helping homeowners and increasing lending to the economy."