TARP did little for American taxpayer
After analyzing U.S. personal income and spending, as well as the state of the American economy after a majority of TARP funds have been repaid, industry analysts contend the American consumer is worse off and never benefited from any trickle-down effect from the 2008 infusion of capital into big banks. In an article first published by Reuters, Christopher Whalen, co-founder of Institutional Risk Analytics, explained that even with the Treasury Department recovering 75% of the funds allotted to banks under Troubled Asset Relief Program, individuals are still in a jobless recovery and face substantial obstacles after the large-scale bailouts. "First and foremost, we must subtract the vast flow of subsidies that are still flowing through the income statements of banks and nonbank financial firms, which participated in the government rescue program," Whalen said. "Since 2007, the Fed has pushed the cost of funds for the banking industry down by about $100 billion annually in terms of interest expense, according to the FDIC’s Quarterly Banking Review. This includes reduced interest paid to individual savers and FDIC guaranteed debt issued by banks and the likes of General Electric." The end result, he said, is the cost to Americans annually "in terms of transfers of wealth from individual and corporate savers to banks and large debtor corporations probably equals all the funds recovered by Treasury and the interest payments on same." "By my calculations, that puts the American people behind a couple of trillion dollars thanks to the corporate philanthropy of Tim Geithner, Hank Paulson, George Bush and Barack Obama," Whalen said. "Indeed, so generous have Geithner and Obama been to the banks that Wall Street is already filling the Obama reelection coffers. But the real cost to the American people of the TARP bailout and related operations is a no growth economy." Adding further insult to injury, Paul Dales, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics, says household finances are weak with real disposable income unchanged in April and data indicated that real incomes have not risen at all this year. "Put simply, the increase in prices has almost exactly offset the boost to nominal incomes from some decent gains in employment and the payroll tax cut," Dales said. "Moreover, in order to raise their real spending at a fairly weak annualized rate of 2.2% in the first quarter, households had to dip into their savings. The saving rate fell from 5.4% in January to 4.9% in March and remained at that two-year low in April," Dales said. "This is not too worrying, as rising equity prices probably boosted net wealth in the first quarter. But with equity prices now moving sideways and house prices once again falling as fast as they were at the height of the financial crisis, households may not be able to run down their saving rate much further." Dales concludes that without a sharp rebound in real incomes, which he doesn't see on the horizon, real consumption growth will lag. Write to Kerri Panchuk.