The economy is improving, Fourth District Congressman Ike Skelton said in his latest weekly column:
Just over a year ago, our country and its leaders were confronted with a rapidly failing financial system that was teetering on the verge of collapse. Wall Street tycoons had played loose with the rules. They were irresponsible with investments and because of their greedy behavior had put at risk the livelihoods of hard working American families.
When the Bush Administration briefed Congress on the severity of the economic crisis in September 2008, Americans were rightly horrified by the prospect of authorizing a great deal of federal assistance to prevent our economy from sliding into a prolonged economic depression.
Like most Missourians, I was downright angry that we found ourselves in the situation we did. But the crisis was real and it had to be addressed head on. Doing nothing was not an option because the consequences of inaction would have been dire for the Show-Me State residents and for America’s economic and national security.
One year later, there are signs of progress in the economy and money authorized under the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, is being repaid to American taxpayers.
In recent Congressional testimony, the Special Inspector General for TARP, who is the government’s lead watchdog over this program, indicated there are significant signs of improvement in the stability of the nation’s financial system. The Inspector General also noted that the dramatic steps taken by Treasury, the Federal Reserve, and the FDIC, in the face of panic, helped bring our financial system back from the brink of collapse.
The Inspector General further pointed out that banks have repaid the American people $70 billion and will repay an additional $50 billion over the next 12 to 18 months. In addition, taxpayers have received about $3 billion from warrant repurchases and over $6.5 billion in dividends, interest, and fees.
This positive economic news is certainly welcome, but more work remains. The federal government must ensure better accountability and transparency relating to all of its economic recovery programs; must work to maximize the return on the investments of taxpayers; and must better protect the interests of everyday citizens, like those who are still feeling the pain of rising unemployment, foreclosures, higher bank fees, and limited credit. I have great confidence in the work being done by the Inspector General’s office and will work in Congress to ensure it is fully staffed and funded.
While the economy is slowly turning around, I expect Congress will continue studying the economic and fiscal challenges facing our country. For example, the House Financial Services Committee is working to bring a number of bills to the House Floor that would put in place new regulations on Wall Street investors to help reduce the likelihood of a similar financial collapse in the future.
It will not be easy, but the President, Congress, and the American people can work together to build a better tomorrow. We must preserve American optimism, that strong and active faith, which will aid us in the days ahead.