Your Government, Totally Out Of Control

Barney Frank: Let’s spend TARP profits before taxpayers can get them

When President Obama announced on June 9 that some financial institutions would be allowed to repay Troubled Asset Relief Program dollars, he said the massively expensive TARP bailout had made money for the federal government. “It is worth noting that in the first round of repayments from these [TARP recipients], the government has actually turned a profit,” the president said. Indeed, TARP supporters have long held out the hope that the program might be profitable.

But now Rep. Barney Frank, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, has come up with a proposal to spend any TARP profits before they can be returned to the taxpayers. Last Friday, Frank introduced the “TARP for Main Street Act of 2009,” a bill that would take profits from the program and immediately redirect them toward housing proposals favored by Frank and some fellow Democrats.

In exchange for receiving TARP money, financial institutions were required to hand over shares of preferred stock that paid a dividend for the government. In theory, if a financial institution paid the dividend faithfully, and then repaid the TARP money, then the government would turn a profit. Last month, the General Accountability Office (GAO) reported that, through June 12, 2009, the government had received $6.2 billion in dividend payments. The original TARP legislation required that money made from the program “shall be paid into the general fund of the Treasury for reduction of the public debt.”

Frank, however, wants to spend the money before it can be used to pay down anything. First, the “TARP for Main Street” proposal would take $1 billion “from dividends paid by financial institutions that have received financial assistance provided under…the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act” and apply it to a trust fund that Frank has long wanted to create for low-income rental housing. (The measure, unfunded, was part of last year’s bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.) Next, Frank would take $1.5 billion from TARP dividends for a so-called “neighborhood stabilization” fund. Republican critics have charged that both measures might allow federal dollars to be distributed to activist groups like the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now, or ACORN.

The “TARP for Main Street” bill would also spend $2 billion, apparently from remaining TARP funds, to subsidize people who are delinquent on their mortgages, and another $2 billion to “stabilize multifamily properties that are in default or foreclosure.”

Congress’s Travel Tab Swells

Spending by lawmakers on taxpayer-financed trips abroad has risen sharply in recent years, a Wall Street Journal analysis of travel records shows, involving everything from war-zone visits to trips to exotic spots such as the Galápagos Islands.

The spending on overseas travel is up almost tenfold since 1995, and has nearly tripled since 2001, according to the Journal analysis of 60,000 travel records. Hundreds of lawmakers traveled overseas in 2008 at a cost of about $13 million. That’s a 50% jump since Democrats took control of Congress two years ago.

The cost of so-called congressional delegations, known among lawmakers as “codels,” has risen nearly 70% since 2005, when an influence-peddling scandal led to a ban on travel funded by lobbyists, according to the data.

Mortgage-Rescue Plan to Cover More Borrowers

The Obama administration is expanding the number of borrowers who can refinance home loans under its housing-rescue program, an acknowledgment that more needs to be done to help people who are upside down on their mortgages.

The administration said Wednesday that borrowers with mortgages worth up to 125% of their home’s value will now be eligible to refinance under its program, up from a 105% limit.

To be eligible, borrowers must be current on their mortgages and have loans owned or backed by government-controlled mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

/had enough Hope and Change yet?