After the $700 billion bailout known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, was announced last fall, Warren Buffett remarked: "If the government makes anything over its cost of borrowing, this deal will come out with a profit. And I would bet it will come out with a profit, actually."
Since then, TARP has been morphed, changed, re-engineered, and refigured countless times. What was first meant to be a plan to buy assets directly from banks turned into a bailout orgy for the auto industry, homeowners, insurance companies, credit card companies, companies that wanted to become banks, and anyone whose name rhymed with "bank."
So you can be fairly sure the final tally will still leave taxpayers in the red.
Still, a few taxpayer investments are paying off quite handsomely. Granted, that's happening in part because shares of low-quality financial stocks have gone berserk in recent weeks -- a feat that some would say is unlikely to sustain itself -- but some gains are actually sealed deals. Done. Profits logged. Moving on.
Taxpayers' stake in Citigroup
Other big banks that floated preferred stock, including Bank of America
The more legitimate profits come from the likes of Goldman Sachs
The three companies' press releases make a point to note that the repayments resulted in an annualized return to taxpayers of 23%, 20%, and 26%, respectively.
These aren't huge reasons to celebrate. Profit or no profit, many simply abhor the plan altogether. There's nothing wrong with that. But it's hard to argue that we haven't come a long way since the days of last fall, when saying the plan would cost taxpayers $700 billion drew so much attention. It wasn't true then, and it's undeniably false now.
For related Foolishness: