The irony of TARP is that is was actually a winning investment for the government. The loans that were provided -- and in some cases forced -- to banks "are turning out to be net cash positive" in many cases. TARP probably saved the U.S. financial system from an even more aggressive downward spiral, but the way voters see it, it was a bailout for Wall Street while Main Street suffered. 


Reuters blogger Felix Salmon was asked about voters' outlook on the economy on Marketplace on Friday and he summed it up succinctly: 

[Voters] have no idea. It's really complicated and they haven't been paying attention, and they're convinced that TARP was an Obama administration program, when it wasn't - it was introduced by George W. Bush. They're convinced it was this bailout of banks, which it was, but all of that money has been paid back at this point. And the stimulus they kind of mix up with TARP, and they aren't quite sure what to think of it, and they know that unemployment has risen and they're absolutely right about that.

Voters see banks failing in their neighborhoods, and they see businesses and jobs getting sucked down in the whirlpool. So while TARP may have netted the revenue-starved U.S. government a return on its investment, voters only see the failings. The map below from the WSJ shows bank closures in the last three years under the headline "Banks Keep Failing, No End in Sight." 

Check out Florida -- wow -- and also California, the Puget Sound, the Atlanta area, Chicagoland, and Nebraska. 

Voters see Obama as hostile to corporate America. Maybe he should trumpet this investment?

 
Failed Banks in the Last Three Years