Behind the spin: Bailout still $123 billion in the red
This story was originally published by ProPublica.
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The administration has been on a PR offensive in recent months to tell the good news about the TARP. As the Treasury Department official in charge of the TARP is saying at a congressional hearing this morning, the bailout won't cost anywhere near the full $700 billion Congress authorized. In fact, many of its investments have turned a profit, and some of its most infamous bailouts — such as the rescue of AIG — won't end up being the tax dollar black holes they once seemed sure to be.
But the true picture isn't so rosy.
At ProPublica, we've provided a comprehensive bailout database since TARP's launch. It shows not only how much money has gone to each recipient, but how much each has paid in interest and dividend payments. With all this data, we're able to clearly show how deep in the hole the program remains. And the answer as of today is $123 billion.
Add that to the bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — which our site also tracks and is separate from the TARP — and taxpayers are $257 billion in the hole.
Although the bailout has extended to nearly a thousand institutions, just a few are primarily responsible for the continued deficit: Fannie and Freddie, of course, AIG, and the auto companies (GM, Chrysler, GMAC).
As for Fannie and Freddie, no solution seems imminent. They're currently $134 billion in the red (counting their dividend payments) — more than the entire TARP. Congress and the administration are in the initial stages of discussing how the companies should be wound down and how much of the investment could be recouped.
AIG is a different story. It has started repaying the taxpayers' investments. So far, about $9 billion has come back, leaving the amount outstanding at $58.7 billion. The government holds a 92.1 percent stake in the company, which will be sold off over time. The process could take anywhere between six months and two years, Treasury officials told the Congressional Oversight Panel, and there's a strong possibility that the government could recoup its entire investment.
The country's largest banks (Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo) have also all paid back their TARP investments with a profit for the government.
But the government's rescue of the auto industry (specifically, GM, Chrysler, and GMAC) almost certainly won't ever make its way out of the red. As of today, the hole is $47 billion.
How much will the TARP end up costing when everything's said and done? The short answer is that it's anyone's guess. The Congressional Budget Office put the toll at about $25 billion in November. Part of the reason the projected cost is so low is actually the poor performance of the administration's foreclosure prevention programs, which seem likely to spend far less than the $50 billion initially set aside for them.
Hundreds of smaller banks also haven't paid the money back, and many are struggling. According to SNL Financial, 154 banks that received TARP money are delinquent on dividend payments to the government. That's about 22 percent of the 707 banks that received money through the TARP, but because the banks are generally quite small, the government's total investment in all these struggling banks only amounts to about $3.9 billion. So far, six banks that received TARP funds have failed, and one more, CIT, went bankrupt, according to research from Keefe, Bruyette and Woods.
We update our bailout database regularly — so check back to see the progress.