Meltdown101-BailoutPl 02-10

Meltdown 101: What’s in Obama’s bailout plan?

Eds: Meltdown 101 is a daily series of Q&A’s explaining the financial crisis. Multimedia: An interactive graphic that illustrates which companies have received funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), and how much each company has received, is in the —business/bailout—tracker folder. Moving on general news and financial services.

AP Photo GFX493




AP Economics Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — Welcome to TARP II, the sequel — but good luck figuring out the plot.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner unveiled the Obama administration’s long-awaited financial bailout plan Tuesday, only to be met with a barrage of criticism that it includes few details about how it will work and how much it will cost.

Geithner provided only broad outlines of how the Obama administration will spend the second half of the $700 billion financial bailout authorized by Congress last fall.

The administration is seeking to rehabilitate the rescue effort, known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which is widely unpopular among the public and on Capitol Hill for handing out billions of dollars to banks with few requirements for how the money is used.

Here are some questions and answers about the new bailout plan.

Q: How much new spending was announced today?

A: The administration hasn’t asked Congress for additional taxpayer funds. Instead, for now the plan relies on the remaining $350 billion of TARP money — the second half of the money set aside last year to bail out the financial industry.


Geithner plans to use $100 billion of those funds to finance an expanded Federal Reserve program to unclog consumer lending, up from $20 billion earmarked by the Bush administration in November.

That allows the Fed’s program to expand to $1 trillion from $200 billion. The Fed said it will lend the funds to banks and other financial institutions in order to spur more lending by those companies through credit cards and student and auto loans.

The Obama administration would also dedicate $50 billion in TARP funds to prevent mortgage foreclosures, Geithner said. More details on that effort are expected in the next couple of weeks.

That leaves roughly $200 billion from the remaining TARP funds for the rest of the plan: injecting more capital into banks and setting up a public-private investment fund to purchase distressed assets.

Geithner said that fund could be between $500 billion and $1 trillion, but didn’t say how much would come from the government.

Many economists think the administration will eventually need much more than $200 billion for those two efforts.

Q: What’s different about this plan from the Bush administration’s approach?

A: One of the biggest changes is the effort to prevent home foreclosures, a shift from the Bush administration’s refusal to use bailout funds to address the housing bust.


The public-private investment fund, however, is in many ways a return to the original purpose of the TARP, which was sold to Congress last fall as an effort to purchase distressed mortgage-related assets from ailing banks.

Instead, the Bush administration’s Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulson, quickly shifted gears and used most of the first half of the TARP to invest directly in hundreds of U.S. banks, in part due to concerns that it would be too difficult to value the assets.

Q: The Bush administration was criticized for providing government money to the banks with no strings attached. Will that change?

A: Yes. The Treasury Department said all companies receiving government money would have to meet certain conditions, including requirements to do the following:

— Submit a plan for how they will use the funds to "preserve and strengthen" their ability to lend. The plans would be made public once a bank receives government money.

— Provide monthly reports to the Treasury Department on new lending, and how it compares to what their lending would have been without government financing.

— Take steps to reduce home foreclosures.

— Restrict quarterly dividend payments to a penny a share until the government’s investment is repaid.

— Limit executive compensation to $500,000 per year, as announced by the Obama administration earlier this month.

— Refrain from acquiring healthy competitors, unless such purchases were approved by their regulators.

Q: Is there anything in this plan for Main Street?

A: The Federal Reserve’s $1 trillion lending program is intended to make consumer loans more widely available, and at lower interest rates.

In addition, the Fed would use its lending program to finance more loans for small businesses as part of a broader effort to spur small business lending.

Q: Is there any way I can follow what’s going on?

A: The administration plans to post a range of information, including the terms of all its investments into financial institutions, at a dedicated Web site:

What To Read Next
Fundraising is underway to move the giant ball of twine from the Highland, Wisconsin, home of creator James Frank Kotera, who died last month at age 75, 44 years after starting the big ball.