Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner told his dad -- err, Congress -- that he doesn't need any more money for the TARP after all. He claims that the $109.6 billion left in the original pot plus the $25 billion he expects to be repaid will give him $134.6 billion -- plenty of money to handle whatever problems will come his way.
This sounds like great news, but it raises so many unanswered questions. What happened to the first $590 billion that's been spent already? Why is lending down 23 percent if TARP banks have gotten all that money? What good is the money doing if it's not being lent out? How can you be so sure that the banks won't need more money if the stress tests are still underway? Will investors kill the stock prices of banks that don't pay back the TARP money? With the TARP investments underwater by $104 billion, how will the taxpayer ever get back the TARP money?
The good news is that Congressional Oversight Panel Chair Elizabeth Warren will be asking these and other questions. The bad news is that the answers are likely to be mealy-mouthed.
Peter Cohan is president of Peter S. Cohan & Associates. He also teaches management at Babson College and is the author of You Can't Order Change: Lessons from Jim McNerney's Turnaround at Boeing.