The much-reviled TARP — that socialistic, hugely expensive, $700 billion monument to foolish government intervention — will end up costing the federal government a grand total of about $25 billion, the Congressional Budget Office now estimates.
Among other things, TARP also happened to save Wall Street from total collapse, prevented a slide into global economic depression and — oh yeah — helped preserve about a million jobs at Chrysler and GM.
No, it wasn’t perfect. Nothing cobbled together in such haste could have been perfect. But history will note two important things about TARP:
1.) It was an enormous economic success story;
2.) Those who guaranteed its failure, bitterly fought its passage and continue to belittle it have somehow managed to turn their opposition into political gold.
Last week, the CBO also released its latest, legally mandated report on the impact of spending programs and tax cuts in President Obama’s equally reviled stimulus package. In the third quarter of 2010, according to the CBO, those policies:
* (R)aised real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product by between 1.4 percent and 4.1 percent,
* Lowered the unemployment rate by between 0.8 percentage points and 2.0 percentage points,
* Increased the number of people employed by between 1.4 million and 3.6 million, and
* Increased the number of full-time-equivalent (FTE) jobs by 2.0 million to 5.2 million compared with what would have occurred otherwise. (Increases in FTE jobs include shifts from part-time to full-time work or overtime and are thus generally larger than increases in the number of employed workers).
Nobody, including the CBO, is arguing that the economy is strong (although it should be noted that holiday sales are up significantly). However, the evidence is overwhelming that the economic situation today would be far, far worse without policies that it has become politically fashionable to oppose.
In fact, seldom have so many politicians who were so mistaken about so much reaped so much benefit from being flat-out wrong.