Thursday, December 18, 2008

Summing Up the Total So Far

So pretty much everyone is aware of the $700 billion “bank bailout” and the pending “auto bailout,” but what most people don’t realize, is that these are only a fraction of the total government expenditures and guarantees that have gone on so far over the past year. Government agencies and the Federal Reserve, which get less media attention and have no legislative hurtles have gone about instituting many other programs on their own.

So I was reading a WSJ article this week that has outlined that the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet has exploded in recent months, ballooning from about $800 billion to about $2.2 trillion since September. For the most part, the Fed has essentially printed $1.4 trillion dollars to purchase or borrow other assets. If this is kept in the system for too long once a recovery begins, we will be seeing inflation like we haven’t seen for years. The Fed says that it will tighten its policy when needed, but given their recent track record, I wouldn’t put much faith in that. And the market seems to agree with me as gold has been inching up recently.

But this whole thing got me thinking and I went about grabbing other info I have accumulated recently and came up with a list of all the various programs created over the past year. I’m probably missing a few small ones, but here is what I came up with.

(If amount allocated is yet to be used in it's entirety, the amount used thus far is in italics.)

Federal Reserve - $4.75 Trillion

Commercial Paper Funding Facility - $1.8 trillion ($312 billion)
Buys short term notes from private firms

Term Action Facility - $900 Billion ($415 billion)
Auctions off loans to banks

Term Securities Lending Facility - $250 billion ($190 billion)
Allows financial firms to borrow treasury bonds in exchange for low quality debt

Money market Investor Funding Facility - $540 billion ($0)
Buys assets from financial companies that support money market funds

Credit Extension to AIG - $123 billion ($87 billion)

Citigroup Bailout - $291 Billion
Guarantee of toxic assets

Discount Window - $92 billion
Banks directly borrowing cash from the Fed

Discount Window II - $50 billion
Extends direct bank lending function to securities firms

Commercial Paper Program II - $62 billion
Loans money to banks to buy commercial paper from mutual funds

Bear Stearns Bailout - $29 billion ($27 billion)
Guaranteed assets in brokered JP Morgan buyout

Overnight Bank Loans - $10 billion

Other Assets - $606 billion
Includes treasury bonds purchased with printed cash in order to help finance the government

FDIC - $1.55 Trillion

Temporary Liquidity Guarantee Program, Secured Debt Guarantee Program, Transaction Account Guarantee Program, increase of deposit insurance limit and other interbank lending guarantees - $1.4 Trillion
Various insurance programs backing debt between different parties

GE Capital Bailout - $139 billion
Debt Guarantee to General Electric's lending arm

Citigroup Bailout - $10 billion
Guarantees Citi’s toxic assets

Treasury Department - $947 Billion

Troubled Asset Relief Program - $700 Billion ($336 billion)
Originally for purchasing distressed assess; now for buying equity positions in companies

Stimulus Package - $168 billion
“Rebate Checks” of earlier this year as well as some other minor tax credits

Bank Tax Credits - $29 billion
To compensate for the government wiping out Fannie and Freddie securities held by banks

Treasury Exchange Stabilization Fund - $50 billion
Designed to manipulate currency markets - now used to insure money market funds

Federal Housing Administration- $300 Billion

Loan guarantees for refinanced mortgages for struggling and delinquent home owners

Nationalization of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae - $5.2 Trillion

Capital Injection - $200 billion ($25 billion)
Government buys preferred shares and opens up line of credit

Mortgage Debt Guarantee - $5 Trillion
Government acquires the guarantee on all mortgage securities sold by the two GSE’s

Total Earmarked: $12.45 Trillion - Used So Far: $8.74 Trillion
Spent: $4.09 trillion
Loans: $1.49 trillion
Guarantees: $6.78 trillion

Likely to be passes soon:
Auto Bailout: $75 to $125 billion
Stimulus Package: $500 to $850 billion

(Sources: FDIC, US Treasury, FHA, Federal Reserve, Washington Post)

Keep in mind too that these are only the new or expanded programs. This list does not include preexisting “normal” expenditures like increased unemployment compensation or the FDIC deposit insurance. Even without these, the totals are mind boggling. With the likely auto bailout and upcoming stimulus package, various government bodies will have spent, loaned out or insured somewhere around $13 trillion in less than a year! To put this into perspective, the entire output of the US economy in a year is about $14.4 trillion. The amount of $13 trillion is larger than the annual economic output of China, India, Brazil and Indonesia combined, the four largest countries not including the US, which include over 2.9 billion people. This amounts to about 30 percent of all financial wealth of all US households combined. Or it translates into about $43,000 per US resident or about $108,000 per household! So this is your piece of the pie so far.

Now all of this isn’t spent money. The majority is either loans or insurance, so all the money will not be lost. Likely, most of the loans will be paid back and not all the insured assets will go bad (though a lot of them will). Furthermore, much of the spent money went to buying assets that will likely have at least some value to sell back later on.

I guess my point however is to show exactly how large and unprecedented this is, and that is goes far beyond the “bail out” bills. At the macro level, the government has essentially taken control over the entire financial system. In broad areas, capital is no longer largely allocated to areas that investors believe are most profitable and therefore most productive, but rather to what areas government has deemed it to go to. And much of this has been done by agencies and the Fed using extremely loose legal interpretations of their powers. The amount of raw power and authority the Fed, FDIC, and Treasury have been allowed to wield without Congressional approval is unbelievable. Distortions are done directly by the partial nationalization of the financial industry (soon to be done with the auto as well), or it’s done by placing guarantees on various assets, incentivizing more capital to flow into these over other alternatives that government bureaucrats deem less worthy. Event the stock market of recent months reacts little to earnings reports and instead has violent swings based one expectations of various government actions.

We are now in a political economy. The gigantic “stimulus package” soon to be passed is going to be the largest pork barrel project in history as every mayor, governor, and special interest down to a city councilman’s cousin who owns a paving company is lining up to the trough for a piece of the handout. This is the closest thing to a command and control economy that this country has faced since WWII. And all this done under the watch of a President whose critics have attacked him for being a “free market ideologue.” If this is what a champion of free market capitalism brings us, I don’t even want to know what the next administration and Congress is going to do. Maybe buying gold is looking good right now.