- The Washington Times - Monday, July 20, 2009

The government’s massive bailout of Wall Street could end up costing taxpayers almost $24 trillion, says an independent watchdog.

Much of the bailout’s attention has focused on the Treasury Department’s $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, which Congress hurriedly passed last autumn. But some 50 other federal programs that began as early as 2007 could push the government’s total financial support of the private financial sector to at least $23.7 trillion, says TARP’s special inspector general Neil Barofsky.

“TARP does not function in a vacuum but is rather part of the broader government efforts to stabilize the financial system,” said Mr. Barofsky in a prepared statement ahead of his appearance Tuesday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Costs include $2.3 trillion in programs offered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., $7.4 trillion in TARP and other aid from the Treasury and $7.2 trillion in federal money to support Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, credit unions, Veterans Affairs and other federal guarantee programs, he said.

Mr. Barofsky will brief the panel on his office’s second quarter review of TARP.

The committee’s top Republican, Rep. Darrell Issa of California, called the size and scope of the government’s involvement in rescuing the struggling financial structure unimaginable.

“If you spent a million dollars a day going back to the birth of Christ, that wouldnt even come close to just one trillion dollars; $23.7 trillion is a staggering figure,” he said.

Treasury so far has committed $643.1 billion of TARP money, and has spent $441 billion.

The report also shows that the inspector generals’ office authorized 35 criminal and civil investigations regarding TARP money through June 30. These investigations include suspected accounting fraud, securities fraud, insider trading, mortgage-servicer misconduct, mortgage fraud, public corruption, false statements and tax investigations.

Mr. Barofsky told The Washington Times earlier this month that “almost certainly we are going to be seeing a number of [criminal] indictments” coming from the investigations.

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