One of our witnesses today, the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Assets Relief Program, has calculated that, in the TARP and associated programs, taxpayers are potentially at risk for about $2.9 trillion. $2.9 trillion is just short of what the entire Federal Government spent in fiscal year 2008. It's like having a second United States Government budget, dedicated solely to saving the financial system. And that is truly surreal.
With trillions of taxpayer dollars on the line, the need for rigorous oversight is greater than ever before. After listening to testimony from the three witnesses--Neil Barofsky, Special IG for the TARP; Elizabeth Warren, Chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel; and Gene Dodaro, Acting Comptroller General of the GAO--we're glad to say that the oversight bodies are at least asking the right questions. But we're deeply concerned that, half a year into the government's unprecedented bailout, the Treasury Department still appears to be dragging its feet in responding to these oversight bodies, leaving Congress and the public in the dark about its plans to stabilize the nation's financial system.
From our perspective, there were several highlights from today's hearing.