January 16, 2009
CBO is required by law to report semiannually on OMB's assessment of expenditures under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Today, CBO released the first of these reports. (For more on the TARP program, this blog post from October includes CBO's analysis of the financial rescue legislation).
Through December 31, 2008, the Treasury disbursed $247 billion to acquire assets under that program. CBO valued those assets using discounted present-value calculations similar to those generally applied to federal loans and loan guarantees, but adjusting for market risk as specified in the legislation that established the TARP. On that basis, CBO estimates that the net cost of the TARP's transactions (broadly speaking, the difference between what the Treasury paid for the investments or lent to the firms and the market value of those transactions) amounts to $64 billion---that is, measured in 2008 dollars, we expect the government to recover about three quarters of its initial investment.
The Office of Management and Budget's (OMB's) report on the TARP, issued in early December, only addressed the first $115 billion distributed under the program. CBO and OMB do not differ significantly in their assessments of the net cost of those transactions (between $21 billion and $26 billion), but they vary in their judgments as to how the transactions should be reported in the federal budget. Thus far, the Administration is accounting for capital purchases made under the TARP on a cash basis rather than on such a present-value basis---that is, the Administration is recording the full amount of the cash outlays up front and will record future recoveries in the year in which they occur. That treatment will show more outlays for the TARP this year and then show receipts in future years.