As the U.S. Treasury Department conducts more "garage sales" to end the Tarp bailout program, their press releases continue to repeat Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's nonsensical claims about the "profit" the program has produced for taxpayers.
Apparently, no one in Treasury considered that the opportunity cost of tying up a trillion dollars of government money in bailouts of Too Big to Behave Banks – rather than spending the money on the economy or on consumers – negated any "profit" to taxpayers.
Since the government failed to attach any strings to the bailout bucks, the banks – having lost their moral compasses in the subprime mortgage lending frenzy – saw no need to return any economic benefit to taxpayers. (In my humble opinion, it remains to be seen whether not going out of business actually benefited anyone.)
The megabanks have made nowhere near the expected amount of loans contemplated at the time of the bailout. For the most part, they gambled the funds in high-risk, proprietary trading that allowed them to declare record profits, but contributed little to the economic recovery.
Miraculously, the same bank CEOS who drove the global financial system to the brink of collapse became financial geniuses – after receiving tens of billions in nearly free money in the bailout, backstopped by more near-free money at the Federal Reserve discount window and several other "backdoor" bailout programs.
Meanwhile, tens of millions of the taxpayers who funded the bailouts lost their jobs, their homes and their life savings, because there was no bailout for them.
I reckon it is long past time to end the charade of Tarp profitability. The bailout was a good deal for the "King Kong" banks and the U.S. Treasury. But not for taxpayers.
Jim Wells is president of Wellspring Consulting International, which specializes in designing financial products and services for consumers seeking alternatives to traditional financial institutions. He can be reached at email@example.com.