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Turning a profit on government bailouts

Marketplace Staff Jul 11, 2011
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STEVE CHIOTAKIS: President Obama and Congressional leaders will meet again today at the White House as they try to hammer out a deal that would raise the nation’s debt limit by August 2, or face default. And maybe another financial crisis. The last crisis we had, a couple of years ago, cost the Treasury more money in bailouts than most of us probably realized.

But Fortune magazine’s Allan Sloan says the government’s getting a bit of that money back. Good morning Allan.

ALLAN SLOAN: Good morning, Steve.

CHIOTAKIS: When you say “bailout,” Allan, how much money are you really talking about?

SLOAN: $14 trillion and change.

CHIOTAKIS: Now $14 trillion is a lot of money, Allan. Did the government go in thinking there would not be a profit from any of that?

SLOAN: Yeah, the government went in expecting to lose hundreds of billions on the bailout, and they did the bailout in order to keep the U.S. economy and world economy from collapsing. And now because the government’s gotten lucky and things are better, the bailout’s going to show and actual living profit as I define profit and as I define the bailout.

CHIOTAKIS: All right, so define profit. What would a profit be?

SLOAN: Based on the number we have, between $40 billion and $100 billion — which to me is actual real money.

CHIOTAKIS: That’s a chunk of change absolutely. So where is that money going to go Allan?

SLOAN: Well, a lot of it has already gone to the U.S. Treasury. What it’s done is reduced the deficit and reduced the government’s need to borrow and more money’s going to go in this year and next, a lot more I think.

CHIOTAKIS: So we hear Allan, though, people talking about the tax payer getting their money back. But is it really the tax payer getting the money?

SLOAN: Well, no one’s going to write a check to Chiotakis for, you know, $12 or whatever your share of this is.

CHIOTAKIS: $14.08.

SLOAN: Well OK then. But when they said the taxpayers were bailing people out, they didn’t come to you and ask for money. They went to the Treasury.

CHIOTAKIS: Speaking of the Treasury, Allan, why isn’t the Treasury trumpeting this news all over? Why aren’t they just bragging about, “Look what we did?”

SLOAN: My guess is somebody probably in the White House has decided this is all toxic so we don’t want to talk about it because any time we mention the bailout, it’ll cause endless problems. The Treasury, in fact, has a set of numbers that are different than mine, but along similar lines. And unless you go and extract it with a pair of plyers, you don’t know it exists.

CHIOTAKIS: Fortune magazine’s Allan Sloan joining us from New York. Allan thank you.

SLOAN: My pleasure Steve.

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