[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/06/22/art.geithner.0622u.gi.jpg caption ="Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner defended the government's bailout of the financial system on Tuesday."]New York (CNNMoney.com) - Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner defended the government's bailout of the financial system on Tuesday, saying it has been a "critical" part of the economic recovery and will ultimately cost less than expected.
Geithner is testifying before the Congressional Oversight Panel, the main watchdog for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP. The government enacted TARP in 2008 at the height of the financial crisis. The program is due to expire in October.
While the economy remains challenged, Geithner said TARP and other "extraordinary actions" taken to combat the financial meltdown "have helped stabilize the financial system and restore economic growth."
Geithner acknowledged that some of the government's efforts were "unpopular." The program, initially funded at $700 billion, was used to pour billions of tax dollars in to troubled Wall Street banks, insurance giant American International Group and the auto industry.
But he argued that such steps were "essential" to contain the crisis and that they have improved conditions for homeowners, consumers, businesses, and state and local governments.