Profit On TARP Repayments Only To Cancel Out Other Losses

Before we start jumping for joy that the government stands to make a nice profit on the $68 billion of TARP money that is now eligible to be repaid, let’s consider that the gains are only from relatively healthy institutions. By forcing each of the nation’s biggest banks to accept TARP funds, former Treasury Secretary Paulson essentially assured profits would be generated on some of the loans, but we really need to look at the big picture. In order for the taxpayer to come out ahead, the gains on the good investments need to cancel out the losses on the bad ones.

Do the profits on $68 billion of TARP capital do the trick? Hardly. AIG received $70 billion from TARP, GM and Chrysler got $17.4 billion, and another $30 billion in slated to fund bankruptcy proceedings for the auto makers. That’s more than $117 billion that the government has tied up in 3 firms. It will take years to get that money back, and in the case of AIG, it appears unlikely a full recovery is a reasonable expectation. So, while $68 billion coming back to us is a good thing, let’s not get carried away and start calling TARP a solid “investment” just yet.

Full Disclosure: No position in AIG or GM at the time of writing, but positions may change at any time (unlikely in this case, however)