Call them bailouts or stimulus packages. Handouts to the rich or much needed boosts for the down on their luck. Economic necessities or frivolous spending. Whatever you call them, add them all up over the past year and you have yourself a pile of taxpayer money. Much of it is supposed to be paid back (some already has), but taxpayers remain on the hook for trillions. Here's a quick update on some of the better known ways your money is being spent to keep the economy afloat.
The Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP)
TARP is a $700 billion bailout of the nation's ailing financial institutions. The program was set up to alleviate the problems banks had with toxic assets, mostly securities related to bad mortgages made during the real estate boom. About $550 billion remains outstanding and $80 billion has not been used.
Several healthier banks have paid back about $70 billion of what they borrowed, with interest, helping part of the program to turn a $4 billion profit. Critics, though, suggest that the profit could have been much larger if the government had handled the terms of the loans differently.
The government still faces potentially huge long-term losses from its bailouts of less stable banks, the insurance giant American International Group, the mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the automakers General Motors and Chrysler.
More than 30 banks have paid back the loans. An additional 600 or so still owe money. Here's a look at some of the better known TARP borrowers.
Paid back TARP investment
American Express...................$3.34 billion
Goldman Sachs......................$10 billion
Morgan Stanley......................$10 billion
Bank of New York Mellon......$3 billion
U.S. Bancorp.........................$6.6 billion
JPMorgan Chase...................$25 billion
Capital One Financial............$3.13 billion
Still owe TARP money
Bank of America......$45 billion
Wells Fargo..............$25 billion
PNC Financial...........$7.58 billion
Source: Treasury Department, New York Times
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American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009
Congress passed the controversial 1,071-page bill in February, freeing up $575 billion for spending and cutting $212 billion in taxes.
This was not a loan program. The idea was to pump money directly into the economy to help it up off the mat. The White House called it "the most ambitious effort to stimulate the economy in our nation's history."
The bill set aside $51 billion in infrastructure:roads, bridges, railwaysand other transportation, and for sewers. (Florida got $1.3 billion for 521 "shovel ready'' road and bridge projects.) More than $61 billion will go to energy projects, including renewable energy, energy efficiency and improvements to the electricity grid.
An additional $12 billion was earmarked for housing projects and almost $9 billion for scientific research. The bill also included $40 billion for additional unemployment benefits, $91 billion for education and more than $147 billion for health care projects and programs.
The bill has been credited with saving or creating more than a million jobs already, according to some estimates. It's also been attacked for being wasteful and too far-ranging.
There have been some calls to forgo spending the funds that remain.
The spending breakdown as of August
$85 billion spent
$123 billion in process
$373 billion unspent
($212 billion tax cuts)
Source: Recovery.org, Propublica.org
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Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF)
The government launched the much-awaited program in March to spur lending for autos, education, credit cards and other consumer loans by providing up to $200 billion (later increased to $1 trillion) in financing to investors to buy up the debt. It was later expanded to include commercial mortgage-loan-backed bonds. Its main goal was to help break up the credit clog created when the lending markets seized up in the fall. But since the launch of the program, only $85.45 billion in consumer-loan-backed deals have been sold.
The Fed and the Treasury have extended the Dec. 31 deadline into 2010, citing continued impaired conditions in the financial markets.
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In an attempt to stem the tide of runaway foreclosures, the government set aside $75 billion for its Making Home Affordable program in February. In the latest progress report published in early August, the program had helped 230,000 homeowners get trial loan modifications that reduced their monthly mortgage payments. The goal is to reduce house payments to no more than 31 percent of income, and in some cases homeowners were fitted with interest rates as low as 2 or 3 percent. Several hundred thousand more homeowners could join the program by the end of the year, though the Department of Housing and Urban Development called the program's implementation by mortgage lenders "uneven."
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Cash for Clunkers
The feds doled out $2.88 billion to the program, which began in July and ended last month after generating 690,114 auto sales. The top 10 trade-ins were all U.S. made vehicles. The Toyota Corolla was the most popular new vehicle purchased under the program, followed by the Honda Civic, Toyota Camry and Ford Focus. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said U.S. consumers and workers were "the clear winners" under the program. "Manufacturing plants have added shifts and recalled workers. Moribund showrooms were brought back to life, and consumers bought fuel-efficient cars that will save them money and improve the environment," he said. After the program ended, auto sales dipped considerably.