Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Brilliance in government accounting, part....oh never mind

President Obama's proposed sale of the TVA--and hypothetical shedding of $25 billion in debt owned by the TVA--has run into a little hiccup.  Apparently, sources inside the TVA estimate its value at only $10-15 billion

Now given that TVA profits are only $700 million, and the agency faces $10 billion in pension liabilities, $25 billion in retooling expenses in the next decade, and already owns $25 billion in debt, I'm thinking a valuation of $10 billion is.....pretty darned generous, even allowing for the fact that TVA has a tremendous amount of capital (dams) that will last for decades.   If a deal goes through, I'd guess it would be more along the lines of "we'll assume the obligation of retooling these plants if the government assumes the pension liabilities, allows us to charge market rates for electricity, and assumes part of the debt."

Put gently, this is a classic example of how you can't undo 80 years of passing the buck with a single bill of sale.  Unfortunately, it's yet another case where the buck stops with the taxpayer.

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