TEXT OF INTERVIEW
Bob Moon: More bailout money is flowing back into the U.S. Treasury. The latest to pay back the government is the Hartford Financial Services firm. So what’s the payback looking like on the Troubled Asset Relief Program? Fortune Magazine’s Allan Sloan is joining us with an update. Greetings, Allan.
Allan Sloan: Good morning, Bob.
Moon: So you’ve got some new numbers on what the federal government — and I guess in this context, what we the taxpayers — have been earning on the bank bailout, the Troubled Asset Relief Program. Tell me it’s good news, cuz we can all use a little of that after all we’ve been through.
Sloan: OK: It’s good news!
Moon: Hahaha, OK.
Sloan: An organization in Charlottsville, Va. called SNL Financial has done a calculation, and they have figured that the banks that have repaid their TARP loans have returned to the government a return of 8.5 percent a year. Which is, you know, not bad. It’s probably the only part of the government that’s actually made any money.
Moon: Hahaha. But how does it stack up, say, against the return that the average investor might have expected? Has the government handled this well, do you think?
Sloan: The answer is sure, if you were a stock holder you made more money, but the argument that I would make would be the purpose of this TARP thing was not to make money for the government, the purpose of this TARP thing was to bail out the financial system.
Moon: Well let’s focus on the goal, then — there’s still a lot of bad TARP money out there, right?
Sloan: There’s bad TARP money out there, but most of it is not in the banks. There are going to be undoubtedly losses at the car companies, which is part of TARP. There are, I’m sure, going to be somethnig resembling a total loss at the helping residential mortgage part of TARP.
Moon: Well this is a little curious though, isn’t it? Because President Obama wants this banking tax, he says, to recover these TARP funds. But I’m hearing from you that we’re getting our money bank from these banks, that the real losers are the auto industry bailouts.
Sloan: Well that’s true, but since when has rationality applied in Washington? I mean if I were president, I might be doing the same thing President Obama’s doing, but the idea that you need the banks to pay for the bailout of the banks is nonsense, because the banks have already paid for that, but it’s an example of Washington math, which is a special kind of math that no one understands outside the beltway.
Moon: Allan Sloan, thank you very much.
Sloan: You’re welcome, Bob.
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