(CNN) – For the federal government, this has been the year of spending dangerously.
The danger lies not just in the staggering volume of money being thrown around by the administration and Democrat-controlled Congress. It lies as well in their choices about how that money is being used and their apparent lack of concern that their spending splurge is unsustainable.
Just this past fiscal year alone, which ended in October, the federal government has racked up a staggering deficit of $1.4 trillion, tripling the previous record. And it has done so in part through moves like buying an ownership stake in hundreds of banks, an insurance company, two automakers and numerous other businesses.
A little over a year ago, Congress created the Troubled Asset Relief Program to try to stabilize plummeting financial markets
Sen. Thune talks to CNN Radio’s Bob Costantini:
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - Washington's so-called "pay czar" Kenneth Feinberg cautioned lawmakers against extending his authority to the hundreds of other companies that accepted government bailout money.
Speaking before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Wednesday, Feinberg said his recent review of executive pay packages at the seven biggest bailout firms was "justified" given the government's massive stake in these companies.
Appointed by President Obama in June, Feinberg has spent the past five months carefully reviewing pay practices at those companies in order to both protect American taxpayers' investment and position the firms to pay back bailout money as soon as possible.
Still, he indicated that intervening in how banks and other companies that accepted money under the Treasury Department's Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, would amount to nothing more than "micromanaging."
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Tuesday he expects a wave of banks to soon return government bailout money to taxpayers.
"It will depend on the institution, but for major banks in the country I think that money will come back relatively quickly," he said.
Speaking before the annual meeting of Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association in New York, Geithner offered few details on when those repayments could happen and from which companies.
Lenders that received taxpayer aid under the Treasury's Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, have already returned nearly $71 billion to taxpayers, helped by renewed interest by private investors in the banking industry.
Still, some $134 billion remains invested in hundreds of community and regional banks as well big bailout recipients like Citigroup and Bank of America.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) – The Obama administration will soon order the nation's biggest bailed-out companies to drastically cut pay packages for their top executives, a senior administration official confirmed to CNN Wednesday.
Kenneth Feinberg, who was named the White House's pay czar in June, will demand that the seven largest bailout recipients lower the total compensation for their top 25 highest paid employees by 50%, on average, the official told CNN.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – The banking system today may be in a more precarious position than it was a year ago, the man charged with overseeing a $700 billion bailout program said Wednesday.
Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general managing the Troubled Asset Relief Program, told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday that the government's decision to support bank mergers over the past year may have put the U.S. economy more at risk.
"These banks that were too big to fail are now bigger," Barofsky said. "Government has sponsored and supported several mergers that made them larger and that guarantee, that implicit guarantee of moral hazard, the idea that the government is not going to let these banks fail, which was implicit a year ago, is now explicit, we've said it. So if anything, not only have there not been any meaningful regulatory reform to make it less likely, in a lot of ways, the government has made such problems more likely.
"Potentially we could be in more danger now than we were a year ago," he added.
Earlier in the day, Barofsky issued a scathing report criticizing the Treasury Department for not being transparent enough about how bailout money was being spent. He warned that this could have lasting effects.
"I think this cynicism, this anger, this distrust of government that's born in part from a lack of transparency could have far-reaching ramifications, whether there's a next crisis or when anytime the government is going to call on the American people, the taxpayer, to support necessary programs," Barofsky said.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - Just how much is a rainmaker at a bailed-out bank really worth? Or a senior executive at a recently bankrupt automaker for that matter?
Such questions will soon be a subject of discussion at the White House as the biggest recipients of government aid begin submitting compensation plans for their top 100 employees to the Obama administration's recently appointed pay czar.
Seven companies - AIG, Chrysler, Citigroup, Chrysler Financial, Bank of America, General Motors and GMAC - are due to submit proposed employment contracts for their 25 highest-paid employees Friday. Compensation proposals for the next 75 most compensated employees are due by Oct. 13.
Kenneth Feinberg, the man charged with handling the task, is expected to rule on the first set of pay plans within the next 60 days. That information is due to be made public by Treasury sometime after, although any announcement may not include details of pay packages for individual employees.
Feinberg, a Washington attorney who first entered the public spotlight after overseeing compensation payments to September 11 victims, has already met with the seven firms to discuss some of the employee payment plans.
However, details of those talks have remained mostly under wraps, although there have been indications of a lot of back-and-forth between Feinberg's office and the institutions.
WASHINGTON (CNNMoney.com) - The top cop tracking the $700 billion bailout program said Monday that he's concerned federal officials are ignoring his proposals for preventing tax dollars from being wasted or pilfered.
Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general overseeing the Troubled Asset Relief Program, released a 260-page report detailing a long list of concerns about government efforts to prop up hundreds of banks, Wall Street firms and auto companies.
The report criticizes the Treasury Department the most for its unwillingness to adopt some of his recommendations.
Barofsky cites two examples: He wants Treasury to force bailout recipients to keep track of how exactly they are spending TARP funds. He also wants officials to erect a "firewall" to prevent private investment managers - the kind hired to manage and invest taxpayer dollars - from taking advantage of insider knowledge.
"Although Treasury has taken some steps towards improving transparency in TARP programs, it has repeatedly failed to adopt recommendations that SIGTARP believes are essential to providing basic transparency and fulfill Treasury's stated commitment to implement TARP 'with the highest degree of accountability and transparency possible,' " the report stated.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - The federal government is likely to spend $835 billion this year fighting the crises in the financial system and the economy, according to a new report by the Congressional Budget Office.
That spending represents about 6% of the nation's gross domestic product.
Of that amount, $340 billion is going toward the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which is being used primarily to bail out banks, insurers and the auto industry. Another $290 billion in 2009 outlays is being used to prop up mortgage giants Fannie Mae (FNM, Fortune 500) and Freddie Mac (FRE, Fortune 500).
In addition, $187 billion is being used for economic stimulus and relief efforts such as extended unemployment insurance.
As expensive as that seems, the CBO notes that "the current recession has little effect on long-term projections of non-interest spending and revenues."
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - For some, the slow, steady demise of TARP cannot happen soon enough.
Last week, 10 of the nation's largest financial firms won their release from the Treasury Department's Troubled Asset Relief Program, setting the stage for them to pay back the billions of dollars the government loaned them last fall.
But this news was book ended by two pieces of proposed legislation from members of the House and the Senate, both of which aim to end the controversial program sooner rather than later.
Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, whose proposal would effectively shutter TARP by year's end, would prevent the Treasury Department from using any of the TARP money returned by banks to lend back out to other struggling firms.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) – The government bailout of banks, lenders, Bear Stearns and AIG brought in billions of dollars to the Federal Reserve in the first quarter of 2009.
In the first of a series of monthly reports on its $2.1 trillion balance sheet, the Fed said it earned a net $2.7 billion from January through March. Most of the gains stemmed from new lending facilities that the Fed instituted after the collapse of Lehman Brothers brought the nation's flow of credit to a halt in September.
The U.S. central bank said it took in $1.2 billion on interest in loans in its Term Auction Facility (TAF) and to troubled insurer AIG (AIG, Fortune 500). TAF, which the Fed began at the beginning of the recession in December 2007, lends short-term money to banks in exchange for toxic assets as collateral.
The Fed also made $2.1 billion on its Commercial Paper Funding Facility, in which the government buys up companies' short term debt in exchange for interest and a fee.
Treasury bonds, which performed well in the first three months of the year, made the Fed another $4.6 billion. The Fed began purchasing long-term Treasurys in March in an attempt to reduce bond yields and interest rates that are tied to them.
But the Fed lost a whopping $5.3 billion on assets it took hold of after the Bear Stearns and AIG bailouts. The vast majority ($4.9 billion worth) of the losses were AIG-related, as the central bank bought up nearly $50 billion worth of toxic assets in exchange for loans to the company.