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Will The Tarp Repayment Frenzy Come Back To Haunt Us?

I tend to agree with Felix Salmon on this--it makes me anxious to see the banks rushing to pay back their TARP money. The problem, of course, is that they're not necessarily doing it because they're healthy, but because they want to wriggle free of pay restrictions and gain a competitive advantage over rivals who are still mired in TARP, or who may turn out to be shakier once they, too, return their money.

In light of the standard (but no less true for repetition) refrain that we're only just starting to work through big losses in commercial real estate, and that there are hundreds of billions of dollars in adjustable rate mortgages set to adjust upward in the next few years, making them unaffordable to borrowers, I just don't see what the rush is. All the more so given that, as Salmon's colleague Matthew Goldstein points out, it will be a lot harder politically to give banks bailout money again should they need it than to make them hang onto what they've got a while longer.

I actually think the president himself had the best formulation on this back in April: “This is like a patient who’s on antibiotics. Maybe the patient starts feeling better after a couple of days, but you don’t stop taking the medicine until you’ve finished the bottle.” Hear, hear.

--Noam Scheiber