The Special Inspector General for TARP, Neil Barofsky, made headlines this week when he estimated that the Obama administration had committed itself to spending as much as $24,000,000,000,000 to fix the American economy.  The Treasury fired back at its own SIGTARP, saying that Barofsky inflated the numbers and that they had no intention of spending almost twice America’s annual GDP.  In an interview with ABC’s Jake Tapper, Barofsky explains that the White House currently has dozens of programs dispensing cash, and that the caps on all of those add up to the $24-trillion mark:

Barofsky told us that the Treasury Department “is not being transparent with respect to the TARP,” the $700 billion in funds (and more) the government is using as loans and bailouts to help stabilize the financial markets. “They’ve failed to adopt some very basic recommendations we’ve had toward transparency,” he said.

Called the “SIGTARP,” Barofsky appeared before Congress this week and told them that the government’s commitment to fix the financial system could potentially reach $23.7 trillion, and criticized the Treasury Department for calling his team’s estimate “inflated.”

“I think that the Treasury Department ought to read the report before they make comments, at least the spokesperson’s office,” Barofsky said. “Our methodology is laid out in black and white in the report. … As far as the numbers being inflated, where do you think we got the numbers from? We got it from the Treasury Department, we got it from the Federal Reserve. … If these numbers are inflated, it’s because they inflated them when they put them out in the public, not because of us.” …

“Perhaps their criticism is that we dare to do math,” he said. He added that his team tried to convince the Treasury that they were wrong, and that recipients should be required to report on how they use the federal funds, and those should be shown to the American people so that they know it’s “not being thrown into a black hole.”

Barofsky comes close to getting the problem right.  He’s doing math.  The White House calculates.  There’s a big, big difference.

I seem to recall when Barack Obama promised the most open and transparent administration ever.  Since his inauguration, Obama has fired one IG for daring to oppose a sweetheart settlement with a political ally, allowed another to get dumped by the agency she oversaw, and now have publicly feuded with Barofsky.  Earlier, they tried to limit his authority by claiming that Barofsky didn’t work independently of Treasury, which got a stern letter from Senator Charles Grassley.  It looks as though the White House has declared war on transparency, and especially the IGs who exist to provide it.

Tapper has the interview up as a podcast; be sure to download and listen to it.