The least successful area of TARP has been its housing initiatives. The Mortgage Loan Modification Plan, which sought to help homeowners stave off foreclosure, has barely made a dent—of the $30 billion the government intended to spend on the program, just over $1 billion has been disbursed. In a December 2010 report, the Congressional Oversight Panel for TARP estimated that the program would prevent only 700,000 to 800,000 foreclosures—a far cry from the three to four million that the program had originally hoped to avert. "The part of TARP that tried to help homeowners who were having trouble with their mortgages really never got off the ground in the way the administration wanted," says Doug Elliott of the Brookings Institution. Dean Baker, codirector of the progressive Center for Economic and Policy Research, also pronounces the program a disappointment. "There were a lot of promises made—that it was going to help keep homeowners in their homes, that we’d see all of these modifications. By that score, it certainly failed," he says.
2. The wrong message