May 25, 2022

Why Won’t My Loan Officer Answer the Phone?

Anyone trying to refinance or get a mortgage to buy a house may wonder why it is so hard to reach their loan officer.  Numerous emails and voicemails ignored and cell phone numbers not in service are annoying to any customer but at least the missing loan officer probably has a really good excuse – he just got fired!

The mortgage industry has always been a boom and bust business but the current environment is more brutal than anything ever seen.  According to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), both purchase and refinance mortgage activity have seen a stunning decline from a year ago.

The Refinance Index decreased 8 percent from the previous week and was 68 percent lower than the same week one year ago. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index decreased 3 percent from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index decreased 2 percent compared with the previous week and was 14 percent lower than the same week one year ago.

For the average loan officer working strictly on a commission basis and doing mostly refinances, driving to the office costs more in gas than what he gets paid.  The response from the nonbank mortgage companies has been swift and brutal.

Why you shouldn't close your business to carry out a stocktake | Stocktaking.ie

Better.com, a major mortgage banker, which clumsily fired 900 people in December via a Zoom meeting and a further 3,000 employees in March, announced that another round of cuts will eliminate an undisclosed further number of employees.

Will things get better soon?  Not soon enough for those loan officers who were abruptly fired and even the MBA which usually spins optimism, seems to have a bleak outlook going forward.

The 30-year rate has increased 70 basis points over the past month and is 2 full percentage points higher than a year ago. The recent surge in mortgage rates has shut most borrowers out of rate/term refinances, causing the refinance index to fall for the sixth consecutive week. In a housing market facing affordability challenges and low inventory, higher rates are causing a pullback or delay in home purchase demand as well. Home purchase activity has been volatile in recent weeks and has yet to see the typical pick up for this time of the year.

Many mortgage companies facing a drastic drop in revenue from their only source of revenue face a serious risk of having to close their doors.  It may be time to approach your local FDIC insured bank for a mortgage going forward instead of a nonbank mortgage lender.  Banks are strictly regulated in terms of capital requirements whereas the regulations on “nonbank mortgage” companies are much more lenient.

FHA Mortgages and Student Loans Are a Risky Combination

First time home buyers have traditionally faced a variety of obstacles including the high cost of housing, stagnant wages, and the difficulty involved in saving for a down payment.

 

If that wasn’t bad enough, recent changes by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) now raise another potential barrier to home ownership due to the manner in which student loan debt must be evaluated.

 

For a variety of reasons many potential home buyers with a large load of student debt are able to obtain payment deferments of various durations.   Since there was no formal payment due under the payment deferments, some of which can last for years, the FHA had for the most part simply ignored the looming certainty of future monthly payments.  By not factoring in an estimated loan payment for deferred student loans, borrowers were able to lower their debt ratios for purposes of loan eligibility.

With the new FHA requirement to account for future payments on deferred student loans, many applicants may wind up with a back end debt ratio in excess of the 43 per cent currently allowed under FHA regulations.  Potential home buyers who were close to the maximum for monthly debt payments may now find themselves ineligible for any type of mortgage loan.

Are the new FHA regulations fair to first time home buyers?

One could make the argument that the new rules make sense since at some point the borrower is going to be required to start making payments on the student loan debt and if the payment is large enough it could cause enough financial stress to put the borrower at risk of defaulting on the mortgage.   According to a HUD spokesman,  “Will that borrower actually be able to afford their loan and the student loan payment? It’s a legitimate issue to consider.  Deferred student debt is debt all the same and really must be considered when determining a borrower’s ability to sustain both student debt payments and a mortgage long term.  Our primary interest is to make certain that a first-time home buyer is put on a path of sustainable home ownership rather than being placed into a financial situation they can no longer tolerate once their student debt deferment expires.”

It’s difficult to dispute the logic of HUD’s position but it seems to fail to take into account the prospect of a borrower’s future income increasing enough to compensate for the additional student debt payment.

The problem with considering future income, however, is that incomes have been increasing at a very slow pace in the post financial crisis period.  The prospects of higher incomes for the average worker remains speculative while the certainty of having to make payments on a student loan at some point are not.  Nonetheless, the increase in the amount of student loans being handed out have been increasing at a staggering rate as students furiously borrow on the dubious prospect of obtaining a job after college that pays enough to buy a house and car, raise a family, and payoff student loans.

Those expecting an increase in the rate of home ownership are likely to be disappointed as more and more young people remain at home with their parents unable to take on the financial responsibilities of home ownership.

The excessively easy lending of a decade ago temporarily raised the rate of home ownership as totally unqualified borrowers bought houses on the theory that home values could only continue to skyrocket.  The subsequent default of these weak and unqualified borrowers resulted in millions of foreclosures which burst the housing and mortgage lending bubble which resulted in the rate of home ownership falling right back to the long term historical average of about 65 per cent.

Optimists On Housing Recovery May Have To Wait Another Decade – Humpty Dumpty Vs The Fed

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Housing prices were never supposed to decline year over year.

Economic depressions were supposed to be a relic of the past.

If the economy weakened, the Fed would fix everything with lower interest rates and Congress would pass some new laws to create new jobs.

If things got really tough, the government would temporarily increase the debt and the magic of Keynesian economics was supposed to quickly “re-stimulate” the economy.

Our children were expected to lead more prosperous lives.  They were not supposed to move back in with Mom and Dad after four expensive years of college – arriving on the doorstep with a diploma in one hand, student loan notes in the other, telling us that they couldn’t find a job.

Day by day, we are discovering that a lot of things that were never supposed to happen are happening and no one seems able to turn things around.

The Federal Reserve and the White House promised to re-inflate the collapsed humpty dumpty real estate bubble with printed money and bailout programs for banks and defaulted homeowners.

An ex Princeton professor, now Chairman of the Federal Reserve, spent his life studying the Great Depression of the 1930’s.  He was supposed to know how to prevent another one, or so he assured us.

Fast forward to 2022 – housing prices that were supposed to have recovered a decade ago are still at levels seen more than 20 years ago.

Not possible you say?  Optimists and shills for the housing industry might want to consider some inconvenient truths.

Will the U.S. have 20 years of stagnant home prices?

What if real estate prices remain the same for another decade?  As I look at economic trends in our nation including the jobs we are adding, it is becoming more apparent that we may be entering a time when low wage jobs dominate and home prices remain sluggish for a decade moving forward.  Why would this occur?  No one has a crystal ball but looking at the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing program, growth of lower paying jobs, baby boomers retiring, and the massive amount of excess housing inventory we start to see why Japan’s post-bubble real estate market is very likely to occur in the United States.  It is probably useful to mention that the Case-Shiller 20 City Index has already hit the rewind button to 2003 and many metro areas have already surpassed the lost decade mark in prices.  This is the aftermath of a bubble.  Prices cannot go back to previous peaks because those summits never reflected an economic reality that was sustainable.

Courtesy: doctorhousingbubble.com

The days of “no doc” loans are long gone and not likely to return anytime soon.  Lenders have reactivated a quaint old mainstay of mortgage underwriting and now require borrowers to verify the capacity to service debt payments.  Higher home prices require rising incomes but real incomes for many Americans have been declining for decades.

The income of the typical American family—long the envy of much of the world—has dropped for the third year in a row and is now roughly where it was in 1996 when adjusted for inflation.

The income of a household considered to be at the statistical middle fell 2.3% to an inflation-adjusted $49,445 in 2010, which is 7.1% below its 1999 peak, the Census Bureau said.

The Census Bureau’s annual snapshot of living standards offered a new set of statistics to show how devastating the recession was and how disappointing the recovery has been. For a huge swath of American families, the gains of the boom of the 2000s have been wiped out.

Earnings of the typical man who works full-time year round fell, and are lower—adjusted for inflation—than in 1978.

Gary Shilling, who correctly called the housing bubble collapse, tells the Wall Street Journal that housing prices could decline another  20% or more.

It will take a 22% drop to return median single-family house prices to the trend identified by Robert Shiller of Yale University that stretches back to the 1890s and prevailed until the housing bubble began. (It adjusts for inflation and the tendency of houses to get bigger over time.) And corrections usually overshoot on the downside just as bubbles do on the upside.

The problem is excess inventories. They are the mortal enemy of prices, and we’ve calculated an excess of two million housing units, over and above normal working levels of inventories of new and existing homes. That is huge, considering that before the housing market collapsed, about 1.5 million new homes were being built annually, a figure that shrank to 568,000 in February. At current rates of housing starts and household formation, it will take four years to work off the excess inventory, plenty of time for those surplus houses to drag down prices.

Additionally, our inventory estimate doesn’t even include future foreclosures, some five million of which are waiting in the wings. The 49% drop in new foreclosures since the second quarter of 2009 is a mirage, and was partly due to the Obama administration pressuring mortgage lenders to try to modify troubled mortgages to keep people in their homes. (They were largely unsuccessful.)

We can say that “We are not Japan” but every passing day proves otherwise.  And for those misguided souls who still believe that the government and Fed can put humpty dumpty back together again, don’t you think that if they could have they would have?

How Much Is A Trillion Dollars? – U.S. Debt Levels Exceed Comprehension

With little press coverage and no debate by Congress, the U.S. debt level is set to automatically increase by another $1.2 trillion in January.

The most remarkable aspect to the latest huge increase in U.S. debt is the manner in which the debt limit was implemented.   As part of last year’s budget agreement, even if Congress decided to vote against the debt increase, the President has the power to issue a veto.  In other words, the debt increase is a done deal – no debate, no discussion.

Massive deficit spending by the U.S. government was supposed to stimulate growth and bring us out of recession as it has in previous economic downturns.  This time, it’s simply not working and the debt levels have reached a tipping point at which economic growth slows as debt increases.

An impressive body of research covering eight centuries of government debt defaults (“This Time Is Different” by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff) resulted in ominously accurate predictions since its publication in 2009.  The collapse of the real estate bubble lead to a collapse of the banking industry which lead to massive government borrowings to bail failed banks and other institutions.

According to Reinhart and Rogoff, a slowdown in the economy leads to further government deficit spending which ultimately puts the solvency of sovereign governments into doubt, which is exactly what’s currently happening across Europe.

Meanwhile, as the U.S. approaches its own tipping point towards insolvency, Americans remain remarkably obliviously to the dangers of mortgaging our future.

How much is a trillion dollars of debt?  The number is so large that it is inconceivable for the average American to understand.  Deep down, the country has a foreboding of impending disaster from our crushing debt burden, but remains oblivious as to the real extent of the problem.

Here’s a visual to put things into perspective.

One Hundred Dollars $100 – Most counterfeited money denomination in the world.
Keeps the world moving.

One Billion Dollars $1,000,000,000 – You will need some help when robbing the bank.
Now we are getting serious!

One Trillion Dollars $1,000,000,000,000
When the U.S government speaks about a 1.7 trillion deficit – this is the volumes of cash the U.S. Government borrowed in 2010 to run itself.
Keep in mind it is double stacked pallets of $100 million dollars each, full of $100 dollar bills. You are going to need a lot of trucks to freight this around.

If you spent $1 million a day since Jesus was born, you would have not spent $1 trillion by now…but ~$700 billion- same amount the banks got during bailout.

15 Trillion Dollars – US GDP 2011 & Debt $15,064,816,000,000- The U.S. GDP in 2011. The debt as of Jan 1st, 2012 is 15,170,600,000,000. United States now owes more money than its yearly production (GDP).

Statue of Liberty seems rather worried as United States national debt soon to pass 20% of the entire world’s combined GDP (Gross Domestic Product).

114.5 Trillion Dollars $114,500,000,000,000. – US unfunded liabilities
To the right you can see the pillar of cold hard $100 bills that dwarfs the
WTC & Empire State Building – both at one point world’s tallest buildings.
If you look carefully you can see the Statue of Liberty.

The 114.5 Trillion dollar super-skyscraper is the amount of money the U.S. Government
knows it does not have to fully fund the Medicare, Medicare Prescription Drug Program,
Social Security, Military and civil servant pensions. It is the money USA knows it will not
have to pay all its bills.
If you live in USA this is also your personal credit card bill; you are responsible along with
everyone else to pay this back. The citizens of USA created the U.S. Government to serve
them, this is what the U.S. Government has done while serving The People.

The unfunded liability is calculated on current tax and funding inputs, and future demographic
shifts in US Population.

Note: On the above 114.5T image the size of the base of the money pile is half a trillion, not 1T as on 15T image.
The height is double. This was done to reflect the base of Empire State and WTC more closely.

Bank of America Refinance Offer Raises Questions On Wealth Accumulation

A client of mine recently received a mortgage refinance offer by mail from Bank of America (BAC).  The offer showed that a savings of $2,225 per year was possible by refinancing to a new 30 year fixed rate mortgage.

My client called me to discuss whether or not a refinance made sense since her rate was only dropping by .375% to 4.75%.  Conventional analysis of a mortgage refinance usually assumes that a refinance only makes sense if the rate is dropping by at least 1 or 2 percentage points.  Other factors used in evaluating a refinance involve the period of time required to recoup closing costs, how many years the borrower intends to remain in the home and a review of the forecasts for future interest rate changes.

In my customer’s case, not only was the rate decrease small, there was also $5,706 in closing costs which included 2 points.  In addition, the savings that Bank of America projected were based on a 30 year fixed rate mortgage.  Since my customer only had 22 years left on her current 30 year fixed rate mortgage, this meant 8 years of additional payments.

The monthly savings of $185.42 ($2,225 yearly) for a refinance came at the cost of adding 8 more years to the mortgage term.  Despite the monthly savings, the total additional payments over 30 years for the new lower rate mortgage amounted to $48,048, including the financed closing costs.

Was Bank of America trying to fatten their bottom line with a refinance that made no sense?  Depends on your perspective and financial status.  For some households on very tight budgets, reducing the mortgage payment by $185 per month can make life a lot easier.

For other households, the $185 monthly savings can help increase long term wealth using a concept that most consumers have either never heard of or don’t understand.  It’s called compound interest, allegedly described by Albert Einstein as “the most powerful force in the universe”.

In the case cited above, if the homeowner saved the $185 per month from a refinance and achieved a 4.75% return over 30 years, the result would be a nest egg of $141,634.  The power of compounded gains over 30 years far exceeds the additional payments of $48,048 at 4.75% interest paid on the declining balance of a 30 year mortgage.  The homeowner winds up with a net gain of $93,586

A 6% return on the $185 per month savings over 30 years would yield $175,904 and a gain of 8% would yield $252,055.

A refinance that did not look compellingly attractive could actually increase long term wealth for those with the discipline to save.  After considering the options, my client decided to refinance and increased her 401k savings by $185 per month.

Disclosure: No position in Bank of America stock

The Lending Company Of AZ Reports Data Theft But Gives No Help To Those Compromised

Data Theft At Major Arizona Mortgage Company Leaves Many Questions Unanswered

Major incidents of data theft seem to be occurring with alarming frequency.  Even companies with considerable resources seem powerless to prevent the theft of customer records containing sensitive personal and financial data.

Two recent cases involving Michaels Stores and Sony Corp show that even huge companies are vulnerable to hackers.  I will leave it up to the experts to determine whether these data thefts are due to inadequate security protocols, but when they do occur, the company involved should take prompt and serious actions to ensure that damage to customers and employees is limited.

A serious case of data theft has occurred at The Lending Company, a major Arizona mortgage company based in Phoenix, Arizona.  In a letter sent to current and former employees, The Lending Company said,

“We are contacting you about a potential problem involving identity theft.  Recently, we have learned of a data security incident in which someone accessed and potentially downloaded sensitive personnel records including names, contact information, and social security numbers.  We have notified law enforcement  regarding the incident and have provided them with a general report.  Due to the nature of this incident we strongly encourage you to take preventative measures to help prevent and detect any misuse of your information.

We recommend that you place a fraud alert on your credit file…You are encourage to call any one of the three major credit bureaus listed below.”

The Lending Company also suggested that these additional steps be taken:

  1. Check your credit report periodically
  2. Review a copy of the comprehensive FTC guide to guard against identity theft
  3. Contact local law enforcement and file a report if you find suspicious activity on your credit report
  4. File a complaint with the FTC which will add your complaint to their Identify Theft Data Clearinghouse

The response of The Lending Company to this serious case of data theft leaves potential victims of identity theft with many unanswered questions including:

  • How long was it between the data theft and the date is was discovered?
  • Why were potential victims not immediately notified by email or a phone call instead of being informed by “snail mail”?
  • The letter only mentions a theft of personnel records.  Is there also a possibility that the theft of customer loan records occurred, potentially exposing thousands of borrowers to identity theft?
  • Did The Lending Company have reasonable security measures in place to protect customer and employee data?

The Lending Company gave a long list of chores to the victims to minimize their potential losses and aggravation due to identity theft.  Dealing with the credit bureaus, FTC and law enforcement involves a huge time commitment.  Why is The Lending Company not stepping forward with a help line or live support to deal with multiple agencies regarding a data breach that is ultimately the responsibility of The Lending Company?

It is routine in cases involved compromised financial information for the company involved to offer free credit monitoring through a credit bureau which sends alerts regarding potential credit and identity theft risks.  The credit monitoring services also have a team ready to assist victims with fraud resolution and provide identity theft insurance coverage.

The Lending Company is ultimately responsible for the data theft yet has done nothing to assist potential victims other than sending them a letter which basically says “good luck” with your efforts to stop identity theft or fraud that may occur due to data stolen from The Lending Company’s offices.

Companies should be required by law to take immediate steps to protect customers and employees in the case of theft of personal and financial records.  At a minimum, companies who allow sensitive data to be stolen should provide at no charge the best credit and fraud monitoring services available.

The Lending Company has failed to protect data and has now failed to help those who may be at risk of identity theft or worse.  Hopefully, The Lending Company will recognize its responsibility and immediately take more proactive steps to protect its customers and employees.

FHA Introduces New Minimum 580 Credit Score Requirement

The FHA is introducing new guidelines on loan to value ratios and the minimum credit score required for FHA borrowers.  As detailed in a Mortgagee Letter from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the following credit requirements will apply for FHA borrowers, effective October 4, 2010.

  • To be eligible for maximum financing, borrowers will need a minimum credit score of 580 or higher.
  • Borrowers with a credit score between 500 and 579 will be limited to a loan to value of 90%.  A sub 580 FICO credit score borrower will henceforth need to make a 10% minimum down payment on a purchase transaction.
  • All  borrowers with a credit score below 500 will not be eligible for FHA-insured mortgage financing.

HUD’s newly introduced minimum credit score and loan to value requirements will apply  to all single family loan programs, except for Reverse Mortgages (Home Equity Conversion Mortgages) and Hope for Homeowners.

The new credit requirements are not expected to dramatically change the number of FHA mortgage approvals.  Most  lenders had already imposed a minimum credit score requirement of 640 or higher for FHA borrowers.  In limited cases, borrowers with scores between 620 and 639 could still obtain mortgage approval.

Many potential FHA borrowers with scores below 640 who cannot obtain mortgage approval may be left wondering why this is the case if the FHA has established a minimum score of only 580.  The explanation for this is that the FHA does not make mortgage loans but rather insures FHA loans made by lenders.  Despite the FHA insurance, banks do not have an iron clad protection from loss.

To protect themselves from loss exposure, FHA lenders impose various requirements that may include establishing higher minimum credit scores.   Some of the factors that influence banks in their assessment of risk on FHA loans are discussed below.

More and more banks are increasing the minimum credit score on FHA loans to attract a better overall execution (sales price) on their securities which improves profitability.  Nonetheless, the increase in the minimum credit score isn’t always about protecting the bank on a potential future loss.  In a lot of cases a bank feels more comfortable with a profit model that positions itself as a mortgage seller with a higher weighted average credit score on their pool for many other factors.

A credit score is an 18 month predictive measure of future performance but is not as reliable when a state or region is hit by some unpredictable negative economic factor.  An increase in the minimum credit score can be used as an override to protect against losses resulting from a sudden downturn in the economy.

Each bank executes a contract of sale with defined representations and warranties on their future liability.  The penalty (or loan buyback provision) is legally defined in the contract between seller and buyer of the loan.  However, not all contracts are the same with regard to liability issues.  When a loan default occurs, a post closing quality control review takes place.  If the loan originator was negligent with respect to due diligence, the bank is subject to full recourse provisions and required to repurchase  the loan which usually results in large losses to the bank.  An example of this occurred recently when Bank of America announced that Fannie Fae and Freddie Mac were demanding $10 billion of loan repurchases.

Given the complexities and potential losses to banks on the origination and sale of FHA loans, it is unlikely that banks will be decreasing their minimum credit score requirements any time soon.

More On This Topic

Sub 620 FICO Score FHA Lenders

What Are My Odds Of FHA Loan Approval With A FICO Score Below 620?

Basic Requirements To Be Eligible For FHA Financing

Will Governor Schwarzenegger Trigger 55,000 California Foreclosures?

California’s long running budget crisis has now degraded to the point where Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has ordered a pay reduction to the minimum wage rate of $7.25 an hour for 200,000 state employees.

The California banking industry, perhaps sensing an opportunity to rebuild their poor public image, has jumped into the budget mess with a plan to rescue beleaguered state employees.   Spearheaded by $7.6 billion asset Golden 1 Credit Union, banks are tripping over themselves to offer “Budget Impasse Loans”, an easy way for over leveraged State workers to tide themselves over until the budget crisis passes.

Bloomberg: The Golden 1 Credit Union, a lender that caters to state workers, will offer zero-interest loans to customers whose pay falls because of the stalled spending plan, according to a July 2 statement.

Golden 1 said as many as 55,000 of its customers may participate this year, if state-employee pay is cut to the federal minimum wage, currently $7.25 an hour. Flyers that tout the program are being distributed in its 84 offices, carrying a message that says “balancing the state’s budget doesn’t have to affect your own.”

“We could survive off our savings for a little while, but it would be a real burden on us,” said Chava Yniquez, a 49- year-old technician in the Senate printing office who has used Golden 1 budget-impasse loans in the past. “It’s a lifeline.”

The California budget crisis and bankers pushing loans are not the issues to ponder here.  Golden 1 Credit Union’s estimate that 55,000 employees will need a loan after seeing their first pay check reduced indicates the very fragile financial condition of 25% of the State’s workforce.  How many more will need a “Budget Impasse Loan” after two weeks, or a month?  Will the first week of the Governor’s budget balancing plan wind up pushing 55,000 home owners onto the path of foreclosure?  Terminator indeed!

The very banks offering “Budget Impasse Loans” may shortly find themselves offering “Loan Modification Plans” if the California budget crisis eventually requires permanent pay concessions from State employees.

Golden 1 Credit Union, which lost $22.6 million in 2008 and $23.1 million in 2009 may be offering a valuable service to strapped State employees, but is a customer one paycheck away from default a solid credit risk?  Golden 1’s website notes that budget impasse loans will be offered with “rates as low as 0% APR”, implying that some borrowers will be paying a “risk adjusted” rate of interest.  Since Golden 1 is offering depositors a whopping .25% on regular savings accounts, even a “low rate” of, say 4%, would still leave them with a very nice spread.

At a time when the universal “solution” for every financial problem is to borrow more money, perhaps the banks should develop a unique “new program” involving financial responsibility, saving and wealth accumulation.

Finally, in the “too ironic not to mention” department, the Press Release issued by Golden 1 immediately prior to the Budget Impasse Press Release reads as follows:

SACRAMENTO, Calif., June 30, 2010—Employees and business partners of The Golden 1 Credit Union participated in the second annual United Way Toilet Paper Drive on June 18 contributing 15,989 rolls of toilet paper to benefit local nonprofits.

Golden 1’s contributions represented 33.5% of the total rolls of toilet paper collected by United Way in this drive. Of these, 10,205 came from the credit union’s employees and 5,784 came from its supportive business partners.

Perhaps soon, California State employees can contribute to this worthy effort by sending Golden 1 their state paychecks.

US Treasury Calls TARP Repayments A “Milestone” While Ignoring The Elephants In The Room

Treasury’s Victory Call On Financial Bailout Premature

The Treasury Department’s latest public relations effort to highlight the success of the financial system bailout focuses on the amount of TARP repayments versus total debt outstanding.  In addition, the Treasury, which had previously estimated the cost of the TARP program at $341 billion, has now lowered that estimate to only $105 billion.

Wall Street Journal – The U.S. Treasury Department said Friday the total amount repaid to taxpayers for government funds used to bail out U.S. companies has surpassed, for the first time, the amount of outstanding debt.

The Treasury, in its May report to Congress on the Troubled Asset Relief Program, reported TARP repayments reached $194 billion, which has exceeded by $4 billion the total amount of outstanding debt—$190 billion.

Treasury’s assistant secretary for financial stability, Herb Allison, in a statement described the totals as a “milestone” and said this is “further evidence that TARP is achieving its intended objectives: stabilizing our financial system and laying the groundwork for economic recovery.”

Does the general public accept the Treasury’s view that the bailout was a resounding success at a relatively modest cost?  Recent Pew Research data, which reveals overwhelming negative public opinion for both the government and the banks, suggests that the Treasury’s spin on the bailout will be given little credence by the public.

Large majorities of Americans say that Congress (65%) and the federal government (65%) are having a negative effect on the way things are going in this country; somewhat fewer, but still a majority (54%), say the same about the agencies and departments of the federal government.

But opinions about the impact of large corporations and banks and other financial institutions are as negative as are views of government. Fully 69% say that banks and financial institutions have a negative effect on the country while 64% see large corporations as having a negative impact.

In March, during the final debate over health care reform, just 26% of Americans offered a favorable assessment of Congress – by far the lowest in a quarter-century of Pew Research Center polling.

Large majorities across partisan lines see elected officials as not careful with the government’s money, influenced by special interest money, overly concerned about their own careers, unwilling to compromise and out of touch with regular Americans.

The skepticism regarding the ability of government to operate honestly in the public’s best interest is well founded and the latest Treasury report on progress of the TARP program bears this out.  While the Treasury reports on the “success” of repayments under the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, other government bailouts and guarantees that are far exceed the cost of the TARP program are conveniently ignored.   If the Treasury really wants to provide a comprehensive accounting of what the financial system bailout will cost the American taxpayers,  here’s my short list of additional items to address in their next report.

1.  The amount currently owed under the TARP program does not include amounts committed by the US Treasury but not paid out.   According to the WSJ, “the outstanding debt amount does not include $106.36 billion that has been committed to institutions but has yet to be paid out by the Treasury. Factoring in that amount, the outstanding debt would be roughly $296 billion.”

2.  Two of the biggest ongoing bailouts in history go unmentioned.   The  Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 provided for a $400 billion bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.   The Government subsequently granted Fannie and Freddie an unlimited line of credit with the Treasury.   Fannie and Freddie have already drawn $145 billion and according to Bloomberg, the final cost to bailout out the two agencies could approach $1 trillion.

3.  Future banking failures constitute another sizable risk for increasing the cost of bailing out the US financial system.   The FDIC has been able to resolve banking failures to date using premiums collected from the banking industry, including a special assessment of $46 billion at the end of 2009.   While the FDIC has not yet had to tap its $500 billion line of credit with the US Treasury, future banking failures may require it to do so.

In its latest quarterly report, the FDIC reported an increase in the number of problem banks to 775, out of a total of 7,932 FDIC insured banks.  Assets at the problem banks total $431 billion.  Total deposits insured by the FDIC now total $5.5 trillion.   The amount of reserves in the FDIC Deposit Insurance Fund total negative $20.7 billion.   Liquid reserves of the FDIC total a mere $63 billion.   If the US economy weakens and more banks fail, the FDIC’s only option will be a costly bailout by the US Treasury.

The government seems to believe they can fool all of the people all of the time. Whatever happened to “change you can believe in”?