TARP: The success that none dare mention

While Obama last week made reference to having narrowly avoided another Depression, he and other leaders have generally avoided trying to explain that mechanism, in favor of trying to change the subject.

All that, despite a broad consensus of economists who think things would have been worse without the bank rescue, and perhaps far worse: In one simple example, American workers paychecks that week might well not have arrived. Think bread lines – and cat food…

A study this summer by former Fed Vice Chairman Alan Blinder and Moody’s Chief Economist Mark Zandi was representative of that consensus. They projected that without federal action — TARP and the stimulus — America’s gross domestic product would have fallen more than 7 percent in 2009 and almost 4 percent in 2010, compared with the actual combined decline of about 4 percent.

“It would not be surprising if the underemployment rate approached one-fourth of the labor force,” they wrote of their scenario. “With outright deflation in prices and wages in 2009-11, this dark scenario constitutes a 1930s-like depression.