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December 8 2009

The TARP Three Card Monte

Nicole Kurokawa Neily

Good news: the financial bailout part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) looks like it ended up costing about $200 billion less than originally projected ($341 billion).

Bad news: the administration seems to think that this has freed up a lot of extra money that they can use for "Stimulus II" for job creation.

In a speech delivered today at the Brookings Institution, the President called for yet another federal program, this time, for "jobs creation." From The New York Times:

In addition to proposing a tax cut for small businesses to encourage hiring, he called for eliminating capital gains on these businesses for one year and suggested that money left over from the financial bailout program, the Trouble Asset Relief Program, should be redirected toward small businesses. He also proposed investing new money in roads, bridges and other infrastructure improvements, and offering rebates to people who make their homes more energy efficient.

"Small business, infrastructure, clean energy: these are areas in which we can put Americans to work while putting our nation on a sturdier economic footing," Mr. Obama said. "That foundation for sustained economic growth must be our continuing focus and our ultimate goal."

Unfortunately, the money isn't his to spend, because it was borrowed from taxpayers in the first place. Showing that the issue has indeed jumped the shark, CBS News even acknowledged it in its recent article title, "U.S. Expects to Lose $200B Less on TARP." Republicans have urged the President to use the "extra" money to pay down the deficit - but let's be honest, it's certainly unlikely that he or his colleagues are capable of leaving well enough alone. Plus, giving out $200 billion is an excellent way to steer funds to political allies and buy votes (Ahem, Sen. Landrieu).

Alas, the U.S. would do well to heed the prophecies of the Republicans... too bad they lost all credibility over the past eight years playing the boy who cried wolf on THEIR spending programs ("Seriously guys, we really need this Medicare Part D entitlement.") Veronique de Rugy at the Mercatus Center, in a great article over at The American, warns:

Starting in 2012, the cost of the debt as a percentage of GDP will explode from a mere 1.8 percent of GDP to more than 30 percent of GDP in 2082.To give you an idea of what this means, if I get to retire at 65, in 2035, the cost of debt will have more than tripled from 1.8 to 7.5 percent of GDP. And by the time my daughter Juliette retires, in 2070 (assuming that she is still allowed to retire at 65) the cost of the debt will have reached 23.8 percent.

How much money are we talking about? Today, the national debt is topping $12 trillion and the White House estimates that the government's tab for servicing the debt will exceed $700 billion a year in 2019, up from $202 billion this year. To put these numbers in perspective, Edmund Andrews writes in the New York Times that this means an additional $500 billion a year in interest payments in less than 10 years, which is "more than the combined federal budgets this year for education, energy, homeland security, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan."

He may be able to create a few jobs now - but the long-term impact of the President's proposed tax-and-spend policies will spell fiscal disaster for the U.S. economy. The nation cannot afford to finance the pet projects of all the President's Men on the backs of hardworking American taxpayers. It's time to rein in these spending programs now, and reform existing entitlement programs - not create new ones.

IIndependent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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