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Reader Question: Fed Data

This is the latest from our new bailout blog. Check out our all-seeing database of the bailout billions.

Since we launched Eye on the Bailout Wednesday, we’ve gotten a couple of questions about what data, exactly, we’re showing here and why. Up at the top of the page, you can see “the $1.1 trillion taxpayer-funded bailout.” But you might have seen press reports that put the number at more than $10 trillion.

The key is the source of the money. We have chosen to focus on money coming from the Treasury Department, which is taxpayer money – spent with Congress’ authorization.

Other calculations that come up with far higher totals include commitments from the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation – spending that raises fundamentally different issues since it’s not taxpayer money. The Fed, for instance, is a mixture of public and private elements with the power to create money. The FDIC is a government agency funded by member bank fees. Both, of course, can have enormous impact on the economy, so they bear close watching, and we’ll be referencing them frequently on the blog here.

One side note: In a number of instances, the Treasury has joined with the Fed and FDIC to bail out an individual institution like AIG or Citigroup. In those cases, our database will show you how much Treasury has committed, but you can see the total commitment (including what the Fed and FDIC put up) by clicking on the individual entries.

Here’s more background on our methodology.

Any other questions?

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