Here is part of Treasury Secretary Paulson's prepared remarks this morning. It looks like they are moving in the right direction, but all the statements about "we are designing," "we are carefully evaluating," "we are looking at," "we are examining strategies," etc. leave the impression that they are still behind the curve. For example, he says "we are examining strategies to mitigate mortgage foreclosures," but why are they still trying to figure out how to design the program? This program shouldn't be in the design phase, it should already be in place:
Priorities for Remaining TARP Funds
We have evaluated options for most effectively deploying the remaining TARP funds, and have identified three critical priorities. First, we must continue to reinforce the stability of the financial system, so that banks and other institutions critical to the provision of credit are able to support economic recovery and growth. Although the financial system has stabilized, both banks and non-banks may well need more capital given their troubled asset holdings, projections for continued high rates of foreclosures and stagnant U.S. and world economic conditions. Second, the important markets for securitizing credit outside of the banking system also need support. Approximately 40 percent of U.S. consumer credit is provided through securitization of credit card receivables, auto loans and student loans and similar products. This market, which is vital for lending and growth, has for all practical purposes ground to a halt. Addressing these two priorities will have powerful impacts on the overall financial system, the strength of our financial institutions and the availability of consumer credit. Third, we continue to explore ways to reduce the risk of foreclosure.
Over these past weeks we have continued to examine the relative benefits of purchasing illiquid mortgage-related assets. Our assessment at this time is that this is not the most effective way to use TARP funds, but we will continue to examine whether targeted forms of asset purchase can play a useful role, relative to other potential uses of TARP resources, in helping to strengthen our financial system and support lending.
First, we are designing further strategies for building capital in financial institutions. ... Any future program should maintain our principle of encouraging participation of healthy institutions while protecting taxpayers. We are carefully evaluating programs which would further leverage the impact of a TARP investment by attracting private capital, potentially through matching investments. In developing a potential matching program, we will also consider capital needs of non-bank financial institutions not eligible for the current capital program.... Also before embarking on a second capital purchase program, the first one must be completed, and we have to assess its impact and use this information to evaluate the size and focus of an additional program in light of existing economic and market conditions.
Second, we are examining strategies to support consumer access to credit outside the banking system. To date, Fed, FDIC and Treasury programs have been targeted at our banking system, and the non-bank consumer finance sector continues to face difficult funding issues. ... Today, the illiquidity in this sector is raising the cost and reducing the availability of car loans, student loans and credit cards. This is creating a heavy burden on the American people and reducing the number of jobs in our economy. With the Federal Reserve we are exploring the development of a potential liquidity facility for highly-rated AAA asset-backed securities. We are looking at ways to possibly use the TARP to encourage private investors to come back to this troubled market, by providing them access to federal financing while protecting the taxpayers' investment. ... While this securitization effort is targeted at consumer financing, the program we are evaluating may also be used to support new commercial and residential mortgage-backed securities lending.
Third, we are examining strategies to mitigate mortgage foreclosures. In crafting the financial rescue package, we and the Congress agreed that Treasury would use its leverage as a major purchaser of troubled mortgages to work with servicers and achieve more aggressive mortgage modification standards. Now that we are not planning to purchase illiquid mortgage assets, we must find another way to meet that commitment.
FDIC Chairman Bair has given us a model... Through the end of October, the FDIC has completed loan modifications for 3,500 borrowers, with several thousand more modifications currently being processed. ... We have worked with the FHFA, the GSEs, HUD and the Hope Now alliance who yesterday announced a streamlined industry-wide modification program that for the first time adopts an explicit affordability target similar to the model pioneered at IndyMac. With this commitment, the GSEs and large portfolio investors are setting a new industry standard for foreclosure mitigation. Potentially hundreds of thousands more struggling borrowers will be enabled to stay in their homes at an affordable monthly mortgage payment.
Beyond these efforts, there has been significant work to design and evaluate a number of proposals to induce further modifications. Each of these would, however, require substantial government subsidies. The FDIC, for example, has developed a proposal that Treasury and others in the Administration continue to discuss. I believe it is an important idea. As we evaluate the merits of any new proposal, we also will have to identify and justify the means to finance it. ...
We will continue to pursue the three strategies I have just outlined: how best to strengthen the capital base of our financial system; how best to support the asset-backed securitization market that is critical to consumer finance, and how to increase foreclosure mitigation efforts. All of these strategies are important, but ensuring the financial system has sufficient capital is essential to getting credit flowing to consumers and businesses and that is where the bulk of the remaining TARP funds should be deployed...