Government Support for Financial System Balloons to $3.7 Trillion
This morning, the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, Neil Barofsky, released his latest quarterly report on the state of the Obama administration’s signature effort to calm the financial markets — from banking to credit to housing. In it, he lambastes the Home Affordable Modification Program, designed to reduce financially distressed homeowners’ monthly mortgage payments. (The program has been an expensive failure, kicking far many people out of the program than it has ushered to lower monthly checks.) But he gives a stamp of approval to much of the government’s efforts to stabilize banks.
The report also notes that though Treasury Department programs are sunsetting and the financial market has stabilized, the size of the government intervention has ballooned in the past year. “Indeed, the current outstanding balance of overall federal support for the nation’s financial system … has actually increased more than 23 percent over the past year, from approximately $3.0 trillion to $3.7 trillion — the equivalent of a fully deployed TARP program — largely without congressional action, even as the banking crisis has, by most measures, abated from its most acute phases,” Barofsky writes.
Where is all that money going? Mostly to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The government has offered the two government-sponsored enterprises blank checks to keep the housing market stable. (I’ll note that once the government grants money to Fannie and Freddie, a majority of it trickles to banking and housing finance institutions, to cover losses on bad loans.) Washington has also amped up funds to Ginnie Mae and the Veterans Administration.
The House is currently working on a comprehensive reform bill for Fannie and Freddie — due sometime toward the end of the year.