Finance Prof: Treasury Overstates Benefits of Bailouts

Monday, 21 May 2012 06:32 PM

By Dan Weil

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The Treasury Department is exaggerating the benefits to taxpayers of the 2008 bank bailouts, one expert says.

In its latest analysis of the government’s financial rescue programs, Treasury bragged, “The latest available estimates indicate that the financial stability programs are likely to result in an overall positive financial return to taxpayers in terms of direct fiscal cost.”

But the indirect costs are substantial, Boston College finance professor Edward Kane tells The New York Times.

Editor's Note: This Wasn’t an Accident — Experts Testify on Financial Meltdown

For example, the bailout programs provided huge sums of capital to financial institutions at below-market interest rates. Taxpayers would have earned far more if market rates were charged.

“You would not pass Economics 101 if you didn’t understand the opportunity costs involved in providing the subsidy,” he says.

In addition, the Treasury includes $179 billion in interest income it expects the Federal Reserve to earn on investments through 2015. The investments include Treasurys.

But from a taxpayer’s perspective it’s inaccurate to include that income, Kane says. That’s because money that the Fed earns from Treasurys comes from the Treasury Department itself.

So money is simply moving from one arm of government to another. That’s hardly a gain for taxpayers, Kane notes.

Others see some issues too. ““They [government officials] have a good story to tell, but it’s a strange mix of things they’re counting,” Phillip Swagel, assistant Treasury secretary under President George W. Bush, tells Bloomberg.

Editor's Note: This Wasn’t an Accident — Experts Testify on Financial Meltdown


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