The terms "$700 billion" and "bailout" are paired as often as "Tea" and "Party," but it turns out that the government lifeline to banks and auto firms will only cost taxpayers a fraction of what was originally predicted. The hugely unpopular Troubled Asset Relief Program—TARP—expires on Sunday, and Treasury officials say the program will cost the government $50 billion at most—and possibly nothing. AIG , the largest beneficiary, yesterday announced a plan to start paying the government back.
No matter how successful TARP looks now, however, it remains despised by the public and there won't be any politicians bragging about it on the campaign trail, the New York Times notes. Veteran Sen. Robert F. Bennett of Utah—dubbed "Bailout Bob" by Republicans who refused to re-nominate him because he voted for TARP—says that although his career is over, "I hope that we can get the word out that TARP, number one, did save the world from a financial meltdown, and, number two, did so in a manner that I believe won’t cost the taxpayer anything."