SIGTARP – Quarterly Report to Congress January 30, 2010


Winding Road in the Woods
Image by Garrett Crawford via Flickr

SIGTARP is the not-so-short acronym for ‘Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program’, the position held by Neil Barofsky. He’s been on the job since December 2008.

Below are a few paragraphs reprinted from the current report’s Executive Summary. You can read the whole thing (224 pages pdf) HERE.

“The substantial costs of TARP — in money, moral hazard effects on the market, and Government credibility — will have been for naught if we do nothing to correct the fundamental problems in our financial system and end up in a similar or even greater crisis in two, or five, or ten years’ time. It is hard to see how any of the fundamental problems in the system have been addressed to date.

• To the extent that huge, interconnected, “too big to fail” institutions contributed to the crisis, those institutions are now even larger, in part because of the substantial subsidies provided by TARP and other bailout programs.

• To the extent that institutions were previously incentivized to take reckless risks through a “heads, I win; tails, the Government will bail me out” mentality, the market is more convinced than ever that the Government will step in as necessary to save systemically significant institutions. This perception was reinforced when TARP was extended until October 3, 2010, thus permitting Treasury to maintain a war chest of potential rescue funding at the same time that banks that have shown questionable ability to return to profitability (and in some cases are posting multi-billion-dollar losses) are exiting TARP programs.

• To the extent that large institutions’ risky behavior resulted from the desire to justify ever-greater bonuses — and indeed, the race appears to be on for TARP recipients to exit the program in order to avoid its pay restrictions — the current bonus season demonstrates that although there have been some improvements in the form that bonus compensation takes for some executives, there has been little fundamental change in the excessive compensation culture on Wall Street.

• To the extent that the crisis was fueled by a “bubble” in the housing market, the Federal Government’s concerted efforts to support home prices — as discussed more fully in Section 3 of this report — risk reinflating that bubble in light of the Government’s effective takeover of the housing market through purchases and guarantees, either direct or implicit, of nearly all of the residential mortgage market.

Stated another way, even if TARP saved our financial system from driving off a cliff back in 2008, absent meaningful reform, we are still driving on the same winding mountain road, but this time in a faster car.

Things To Remember

In other words, everything we’ve done and everything we’re doing is not just not making it better. Everything our government and the Federal Reserve has done since this started has ultimately made this mess worse. This government report says so.

Thank Richard Burr (who voted for cloture) and the US Senate for confirming Bernanke’s appointment. Bernanke, you remember, was the guy who forced the TARP down our throats with threats of ‘tanks in the streets’ and ‘martial law’ if he didn’t get his hands on that money. Money which, if you remember, he decided to use for something other than what he said he needed it for. (So where are the tanks Benny boy?)

If you’re in NC this November, remember who Richard Burr really works for. Hint: It ain’t you. A vote for Burr is a vote for the Same Old Shit. Remember that.

I’ll be sure to remind you, just in case.