This week, the U.S. Department of the Treasury released its latest cost estimates for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), which was only one part of the government’s broader effort to combat the financial crisis. These charts provide a more comprehensive update on the impact of the combined actions of the Treasury, the Federal Reserve, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).*
Collectively, these programs—carried out by both a Republican and a Democratic administration—were effective in preventing the collapse of the financial system, in restarting economic growth, and in restoring access to credit and capital. They were well-designed and carefully managed. Because of this, we were able to limit the broader economic and financial damage. Although this crisis was caused by a shock larger than that which caused the Great Depression, we were able to put out the financial fires at much lower cost and with much less overall economic damage than occurred during a broad mix of financial crises over the last few decades.
Our economy is stronger today because of the strategy we adopted and the financial reforms now being put in place. This, in turn, has allowed our financial system to return as an engine for economic growth, jobs, and innovation. These are the most important measures of the impact of the financial strategy adopted by the United States.
In addition, the latest available estimates indicate that the financial stability programs are likely to result in an overall positive financial return for taxpayers in terms of direct fiscal cost. These estimates are based on gains already realized and on a range of different measures of cost and return for the remaining investments outstanding. These estimates do not include the full impact of the crisis on our fiscal position. And they do not include the cost of the tax cuts and emergency spending programs passed by Congress in the Recovery Act and after that were critically important to restarting economic growth.
Although the economy is getting stronger, we have a long way to go to fully repair the damage the crisis has left behind. We are still living with the broader economic cost of the crisis, which can be seen in high unemployment, the moderate pace of recovery, fiscal deficits still swollen by the crisis, the remaining constraints on access to credit, and the remaining challenges in the housing market.
But the damage would have been far worse, and the costs far higher, without the government’s forceful response.
Click here to download a copy of The Financial Crisis Response - In Charts.
* This document focuses on many actions that made up the coordinated government response but is not meant to provide a complete inventory. In particular, while the Federal Reserve coordinates with other government agencies on some actions, it acts independently with regard to monetary policy.
Tim Massad is the Assistant Secretary for Financial Stability.