Troubling Auto-Rescue Plunder (TARP)

Remember that "trillion-dollar bank bailout" that President Bush pushed four years ago?  The Congressional Budget Office now says that (1) it cost just $24 billion, nowhere near a trillion; (2) taxpayers made money from the banks; and (3) the vast majority of the money went to auto companies.

Don't call it a trillion-dollar bank bailout.  Call it the $20-billion UAW payoff.

The CBO's numbers are summarized it in a table.

So we taxpayers made $11B from banks, not the other way around.  You know something funny about that?  When the TARP money first flowed out of government and into the banks, Democrats counted that as adding to Bush's deficit.  But when that money flowed back into U.S. coffers, Democrats kind of forgot about it.  As humongous as Obama's 2010-2012 deficits have been, they would have been about $200B bigger if not for TARP.

All the TARP money, and then some, will have gone to purposes that had nothing to do with the original TARP rationale: auto companies and mortgage programs.  Here are some CBO words on the auto bailout.

General Motors (GM) and Chrysler, along with their associated financing intermediaries, received just over $79 billion in TARP funds. In addition, the federal government offered to guarantee $5 billion in loans to parts manufacturers for GM and Chrysler; only $413 million of such loans was actually disbursed, however, bringing the total assistance to the automotive industry to nearly $80 billion. About $37 billion of that amount remains outstanding.

The car companies brag that they "paid back" their loans.  Sure, the "loans" were $413 million of the total $80 billion.  They got $80B; they have never paid back $37B of that; and we never expect to see $20B of that.  I will gladly pay the federal government $1M if it gives me $50M in the first place!

Here are some more CBO words.

Following the bankruptcy proceedings of GM and Chrysler, the Treasury agreed to exchange the debt positions it held in the original companies for a blend of debt, equity, and preferred shares in the newly configured companies-'New GM' and 'New Chrysler'- that emerged after bankruptcy.

Did you notice a certain word there?  Hint: it was used twice in that one sentence. The word, boys and girls, is bankruptcy.  GM and Chrysler went bankrupt.  Obama's auto bailout did not prevent bankruptcy.  Yet President Obama accused Mitt Romney of pushing bankruptcy.

When the American auto industry was on the brink of collapse, more than 1 million jobs were on the line, Gov. Romney said we should just let Detroit go bankrupt.

But GM and Chrysler did go bankrupt, even with Obama's $80B bailout.  (And Detroit's own police tell outsiders to "enter Detroit at your own risk.")  The difference is in how they went bankrupt.  What Obama did was stiff bondholders and non-UAW workers, steal $20B from taxpayers, and give it all to the UAW.  All told, those poor UAW guys, who used to make $70 an hour in pay and benefits, will get about $26B, or more than the entire cost of TARP.

Let me do some arithmetic for you.  You can buy a decent car for about $20,000.  That means the U.S. government bought one million cars from GM and Chrysler, but they didn't have to actually make them.  I guess if we pay people not to work and farmers not to farm, it's OK to pay workers from car companies for not making cars.  (At least with Cash for Clunkers, people ended up with real cars -- a sterling success by modern government standards.)

And what about those "mortgage programs" that will cost us $16B?

The federal government initially committed a total of $75 billion for the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), which was established to provide direct payments to mortgage servicers to allow them to modify mortgages so as to help homeowners avoid foreclosure. Of that total, $50 billion was made available through the TARP[.]

And how did that work out?

Through the end of July, more than 1 million homeowners had received permanent modifications to their mortgages through HAMP, though over 230,000 of those modifications were subsequently canceled, primarily because the homeowners later defaulted.

I'm not a banker, but a 23% default-on-top-of-default rate doesn't seem like good business to me.

We gave money to car companies, and they went bankrupt anyway.  We gave money to homeowners in default, and they defaulted anyway.

TARP was simply Obamanomics in microcosm.  Obama gave us a stimulus that didn't stimulate.  An "affordable" health care program that bent the cost curve up instead of down.  "Investments" in solar panel companies that never produced solar panels (except the ones that worked until they were put in the sun).  Recovery Summers without recoveries.  A laser-like focus on J-O-B-S that produced the slowest recovery in history.

President Obama has given whole new meaning to "money for nothing."

Randall Hoven can be followed on Twitter.

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