TARP — $700 billion morphs to $23.7 trillion

Monday, July 20th, 2009 3:20 pm by Neal

Remember the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) bill to bail out the banks? Well, as it turns out, the Treasury Department has not exactly been forthcoming about the final bill. So says Neil Barofsky, the inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program. Watchdog: Financial Bailout Support Could Reach $23.7 Trillion:

The total price tag for federal support stemming from the financial crisis could reach $23.7 trillion in the long run, the government’s top bailout watchdog says in a new report to Congress.

Neil Barofsky, the inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, plans to deliver his report Tuesday to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The $23.7 trillion figure is admittedly a high-ball number and reflects the total potential gross exposure, but Barofsky in his prepared testimony notes that the TARP — which started as a $700 billion bailout — has expanded well beyond that.

“TARP has evolved into a program of unprecedented scope, scale and complexity. Moreover, TARP does not function in a vacuum but is rather part of the broader government efforts to stabilize the financial system,” the report says.

“The total potential federal government support could reach up to $23.7 trillion,” the report estimates, factoring in commitments from “dozens of programs” implemented throughout the federal government since 2007.

In supporting documentation obtained by FOXNews.com, the inspector general’s office explains that the $23.7 trillion spans about 50 “initiatives or programs” created by federal agencies in the wake of the economic crisis.

The estimate covers commitments that could come from programs at the Federal Reserve, Treasury Department, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the Federal Housing Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs and other agencies.

It notes that the total “financial exposure” of TARP and related programs alone could reach $3 trillion.

While not a firm or official figure, the estimate has the potential to send lawmakers into sticker shock.

“The potential financial commitment the American taxpayers could be responsible for is of a size and scope that isn’t even imaginable,” Rep. Darrell Issa, ranking Republican on the oversight committee, said in a written statement. “If you spent a million dollars a day going back to the birth of Christ, that wouldn’t even come close to just $1 trillion — $23.7 trillion is a staggering figure.”

In the report, Barofsky also says that the Treasury Department has “repeatedly failed” to adopt recommendations that his office believes will bring more transparency and accountability to the execution of the bailout.

Transparency and accountability: Change you can believe in.

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