Want Some Government Money? Apply Now!

By Thomas Nagorski

Nov 12, 2008 1:02pm

This morning Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson addressed a skeptical press about the latest plans for those 700 billion dollars that were appropriated for the "TARP" — or Troubled Asset Recovery Program. Now Paulson says Treasury won’t buy those "Trouble Assets" — one of the many metamorphoses this program has had in its young life. In the meantime, care to apply for some TARP money? Turns out there’s a five-page, downloadable document to fill in — if you’re interested…here’s the link. And here’s ABC’s Dan Arnall on whether there has been, as he puts it, a "Great TARP Bait & Switch". No Troubled Asset Purchases? Then what are they doing with that $700 billion blank check? They are buying bank stock, not troubled assets. We probably shouldn’t call it the TARP anymore. Instead, they are focused on a capital purchase plan (CPP) which is the widely reported $250 billion plan to use taxpayer money to purchase a stake in banks. "By October 26th we had $115 billion out the door to eight large institutions," said Paulson. "In Washington that is a land-speed record from announcing a program to getting funds out the door. We now have approved dozens of additional applications, and investments are being made in approved institutions." When we’ll get a list of those dozens of additional applicants which will be getting a piece of the $125 billion in remaining taxpayer case remains to be seen. The original CPP participants were told about the program at a closed-door meeting at Treasury and no minutes have been released on what was said during the meeting. So, is this the biggest bait and switch in American history? There will certainly be critics who say that Paulson and the Bush Administration were disingenuous when they were selling Congress and the American public on the program back in September. And they’d probably be right. Paulson said today, he knew when the bill was signed the purchase of trouble assets wasn’t the right solution to the problem. But history will judge Hank & Co. on the effectiveness of their response. If the risks to the financial system remain low, the future doesn’t bring bigger bank and financial institution failures, and the recession doesn’t get too deep or last too long, then the quick pivot on this plan will probably go unnoticed.

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