Washington's response to the financial crisis was ugly, messy, expensive — and necessary.
The Great Bailout has become enormously unpopular, but it won't be as costly as originally feared, not by a long shot — and it prevented a complete collapse of the banking system.
The Treasury's latest estimate of the total bailout cost is $89 billion. That's a real chunk of change, but a lot less than expected.
The figure includes loan guarantees by the Federal Housing Administration, Federal Reserve purchases of mortgage debt to prop up the housing market, capital injections to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the infamous Troubled Asset Relief Program.
A few qualifiers: The estimate assumes the government will get a decent price for its $32 billion holding in Citigroup shares, which it plans to sell by the end of the year. If the stock market tanks again, all bets are off.
The estimate doesn't include money needed to cover future losses in Fannie's and Freddie's rancid portfolio of mortgage loans, which is expected to cost taxpayers’ $370 billion.
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