- The costs of purchases and guarantees of troubled assets,
- The information and valuation methods used to calculate those costs, and
- The impact on the federal budget deficit and debt.
CBO's current estimate of the cost of the TARP's transactions is substantially less than the $66 billion estimate incorporated in the agency's latest baseline budget projections (issued in August 2010) and the $109 billion estimate shown in the agency's previous report on the TARP (issued in March 2010). The reduction in estimated cost over the course of this year stems from several developments: additional repurchases of preferred stock by recipients of TARP funds; a lower estimated cost for assistance to AIG and to the automotive industry; lower expected participation in mortgage programs; and the elimination of the opportunity to use TARP funds for new purposes (because of the passage of time and the provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, P.L. 111-203). CBO's current estimate is also well below OMB's latest estimate, $113 billion, because the market value of assets held by the government has increased and several recipients of TARP funds — most notably General Motors and AIG — have significantly restructured the Treasury’s investment since May 31, 2010, the date used as the basis for OMB's analysis.
Clearly, it was not apparent when the TARP was created two years ago that the cost would turn out to be this low. At that time, the U.S. financial system was in a precarious condition, and the transactions envisioned and ultimately undertaken through the TARP engendered substantial financial risk for the federal government. However, the cost has come out toward the low end of the range of possible outcomes anticipated when the program was launched. Because the financial system stabilized and then improved, the amount of funds used by the TARP was well below the $700 billion initially authorized, and the outcomes of most transactions made through the TARP were favorable for the federal government.