I'm locked and loaded to bet on the bailout. My muse is none another than H.R. 1424, section 134:
SEC. 134. RECOUPMENT.
Upon the expiration of the 5-year period beginning upon the date of the enactment of this Act, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, in consultation with the Director of the Congressional Budget Office, shall submit a report to the Congress on the net amount within the Troubled Asset Relief Program under this Act. In any case where there is a shortfall, the President shall submit a legislative proposal that recoups from the financial industry an amount equal to the shortfall in order to ensure that the Troubled Asset Relief Program does not add to the deficit or national debt. (emphasis mine)
Here are my terms: If the Director of the OMB's 2013 report says that a shortfall exists, I win. Otherwise, I lose. The stakes: I will make up to five $100 bets at even odds.
Why am I making this bet?
First, I strongly suspect that "it will pay for itself" claims are false.
Second, I can't think of any other unambigious way to measure whether these claims are false.
Third, using the OMB's report biases the bet against me: If OMB doesn't turn in the report, or fudges the numbers, I lose. This should entice bailout optimists to accept my terms. Even so, I'm confident that I'll win - OMB may be able to overstate the bailout's success, but there are limits to spin doctoring.
I offer Andy Kessler the right of first refusal. Anyone else who wants to bet can offer to accept the terms in the comments, but it's not official until I respond. I'll give preference to bets by well-known bloggers, pundits, econ profs, etc. Feel free to forward this post to anyone who has publicly stated that the bailout will make money.