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Santelli, Kudlow Rail against 'Criminal' Aspects of TARP Bailout

If CNBC on-air talent has really had their hands tied by General Electric and NBC management on criticizing the current administration’s economic policy, you couldn’t tell it from watching Rick Santelli and Larry Kudlow.

 On CNBC’s April 24 “The Call,” Santelli expressed his frustration with an overreaction by the government to solve the financial crisis when Kudlow asked him about the expansion of bailout obligations from the original TARP bailout price tag $750 billion to the $3 trillion.

“Listen – I’m glad I didn’t say that, I’m glad I didn’t say all that,” Santelli said. “Do I disagree with it? Probably not. But, I’ll take it a step farther – in the beginning, whether it was the commercial paper program, there was a need just like babies have a need for milk. But I don’t need to drink a couple of gallons anymore.”

CNBC correspondent and TARP bailout supporter Steve Liesman sneered at Santelli’s comments. “I’m glad you know that with certainty, Rick,” Liesman said.

 But Santelli responded by raising the point that a lot of issues have arisen from the government sudden intervention in the American economy, which started with TARP. He specifically alluded to the government’s new efforts to regulate the credit card industry,

“How do you know with certainty that program has done anything,” Santelli said. “How do you know with certainty that if we let all of this fail, maybe if we were more grown-up, we wouldn’t pass on our problems to the next generation – maybe we would have had a problem for a year, or two years in. And, the problems are all around us – we’re going for credit cards now. And if we tell them what to charge and it doesn’t work, there’s another hat in hand. It’s horrible.”

Kudlow, who had written originally about it on his “Money Politic$” blog on National Review’s Web site, made the point that according to the Special Inspector General of TARP Neil Barofsky’s report – the program is awash with fraud and corruption, among other heavy-handed government flaws.

“Government planning, government controls, state-directed economy, corporate capitalism, central planning, industrial policy – that’s what this has got,” Kudlow interjected. “This guy Barofsky said this thing has overtones of a criminal enterprise.”

Liesman said it was the lack of regulation that got things to where they are currently, but Santelli responded by saying it’s also OK for things to fail in a capitalist economy.

“I’m not fans of anything but capitalism and if it fails once in awhile, it’s better than Washington dictating,” Santelli added.

Liesman also said Kudlow was over-the-top on his criminal enterprise accusations, despite the 20 criminal probes into TARP by Barofsky.

“He’s the inspector general of the TARP program,” Kudlow said. “He is an attorney, he is a former special prosecutor – you’re going to tell me he’s wrong? I’m not making this up, I’m just reading his press release.”

However, Santelli showed that government often fails when it attempts to participate in a free-market economy and cited one specific example.

“My last word is – just think about Amtrak when you think about getting out,” Santelli said.