Kudlow’s Money Politics

TARP, the Criminal Enterprise?

Is the whole TARP plan a criminal enterprise? Sounds farfetched, I suppose. But after reading about Special Inspector General Neil Barofsky’s report, it may well be that TARP is just one big criminal problem.

Listen to this: Barofsky’s investigators reported Monday that they have opened 20 criminal probes into possible securities fraud, tax-law violations, insider-trading, and mortgage-modification fraud related to TARP. Yup, those are criminal probes. Barofsky is the special IG overseeing the bailout program. And for some reason the mainstream media refuses to report this on the front pages where it belongs.

Barofsky’s report spans 247 pages. And it says that the very character of the bailout program makes it “inherently vulnerable to fraud, waste and abuse, including significant issues related to conflicts of interest facing fund managers, collusion between participants and vulnerabilities to money laundering.”

By the way, one of Barofsky’s recommendations is for Treasury to abandon its whole plan of buying toxic assets from banks and investors. The IG’s report also notes that what started last October as a single-purpose $750 billion effort to buy toxic securities has morphed into twelve separate programs that cover up to $3 trillion in direct spending, loans, and loan guarantees. In other words, TARP is nearly equal in size to the entire federal budget.

Now, Geithner & Co. has said very little about this. Even in yesterday’s TARP oversight hearing, very little was said about the Barofsky critique. That’s too bad, because this is a crucial area of investigation. TARP is badly in need of reform — or maybe better yet, badly in need of termination.

Think about this: TARP, which is now linked to substantial criminal activity, has ballooned to the size of a second federal budget and represents the biggest government-directed intrusion into the economy in history — vastly bigger than the New Deal. And not only is there TARP for banks, insurance companies, and non-bank financial institutions, but also for GM, Chrysler, and various auto suppliers, and perhaps soon enough for credit cards, newspapers, and other sectors of the economy.

This is why I believe the era of democratic free-market capitalism is coming to an end. It is being replaced by state-directed corporatism on a grand scale. This is central planning that goes way beyond the American tradition.

Now we will wait and see if the investigative process for TARP turns into a judicial process, and whether this criminal enterprise puts the long arm of the law onto specific, individual criminals.

Larry Kudlow is the author of JFK and the Reagan Revolution: A Secret History of American Prosperity, written with Brian Domitrovic.

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