n May 13, 2010, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) introduced H.R. 5297, TARP III. The bill is being promoted as necessary to increase the availability of credit for small businesses. TARP III would create a $30 billion lending fund and authorize the Treasury Secretary to make capital investments in banks with less than $10 billion in assets. Those banks would be charged dividends or interest of 5 percent yearly. Those rates would be reduced based on the bank's level of small business lending. TARP III would also authorize the appropriation of $2 billion to assist states with funding their small business lending and guarantee programs. However, the bill would deepen the nation's debt problems and duplicate the goal of the original $700 billion TARP program. With nearly 10 percent unemployment, the economic leadership of congressional Democrats has proven to be a failure. TARP III and its $32 billion price tag would not be any different.
Rather than proposing sound economic policies like lowering taxes and reducing regulatory burdens, the Democrats continue to advocate policies that expand the government's control and increases the nation's debt. For example, despite the Democrats stated goal, TARP III does not require the $30 billion bailout fund go to financially stable banks. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke recently warned Congress that, without significant spending restraints, the U.S. would soon have a debt crisis like Greece.
The original bailout bill, TARP I, was $700 billion. In 2009, Democrats enacted a $1.138 trillion "stimulus" plan, including the cost of interest, a $410 billion FY09 omnibus appropriations bill and a $3.6 trillion FY2010 budget. The Democrats increased the debt ceiling by $1.9 trillion, and the national debt now stands above $13 trillion. The taxpayers lost $145 billion by bailing out Fannie and Freddie, and the CBO expects the cost to approach $400 billion. Recently, the EU and the IMF pledged $145 billion to bail out the bankrupt nation of Greece. America's taxpayers are on the hook for $6.8 billion in loan guarantees from the IMF. The EU and IMF also announced a $1 trillion bailout plan that could put America's taxpayers on the hook for $50 billion in additional loan guarantees to bail out other financially irresponsible members of the EU.
Under the original TARP, Treasury created several programs to generate lending to small businesses. In addition, the federal government instituted federal guarantee programs through the FDIC and the Small Business Administration. The creation of a $32 billion TARP III program to do what the $700 billion TARP and other federal programs were intended to do is simply unnecessary. In fact, according to a recent survey by the National Federation of Independent Business, 8 percent of the small businesses surveyed cited a lack of credit as an immediate problem, but more than 50 percent cited a lack of sales as an immediate problem. In other words, small businesses are suffering due to a lack of jobs for consumers.
The TARP III program would not be subject to the effective oversight of the Special Inspector General for TARP. SIGTARP's Neil Barofsky, on February 19, 2010, sent a letter to Treasury's assistant secretary for financial stability, Herb Allison. In the letter, Barofsky, expressed concern regarding Treasury's decision to remove TARP III from SIGTARP's oversight and warned that such a move would be "terribly wasteful" and "could lead to significant exposure to waste, fraud and abuse."
Like the original TARP program, the federal government will once again, at it discretion, be able to reach into the boardrooms and pocket-books of private sector firms and employees. The use of the original TARP by some banks begot the use of the Obama administration's pay czar and auto task force (which closed thousands of dealerships). Also, the use of the original TARP inspired the Democrats to pursue a "responsibility fee," another tax on financial firms. Through TARP III, many small and mid-size banks may soon find the federal government as their new senior partner.