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The federal government spent roughly $86 billion in taxpayer money to bail out the auto industry. That's a lot of Monopoly money, folks, and when the industry we know and love was at its weakest point, early projections suggested that that the U.S. government and American taxpayers would never see $30 billion of that money. But as the economy slowly crawls back to life and cars and trucks are beginning to move with greater regularity, those forecasts are being adjusted downward.

A few months ago the Treasury Department proclaimed that the industry could, if everything fell just so, lose only $8 billion by the time the dust settles. We're now in October, and according to The Detroit News, the DoT is settling on a loss that looks a lot like $17 billion. That figure was revised downward from $24.3 billion due to increased optimism that the bailout of Ally Bank, the Cerberus-owned finance arm for both General Motors and Chrysler, wasn't going to be as big of a cash drain as was originally expected.

The revised auto industry loss comes out of a 200-page report that details the overall plight of the $700 billion ($475 billion has been spent to date) Troubled Asset Relief Program. The report states that the U.S. government stands to lose a grand total of $29 billion of the $475 billion spent. That $29 billion number is definitely tentative, though, because a lot of the numbers are heavily dependent on the price of stocks at the time the federal government decides to sell.

For example, at the current price of AIG shares, the government would actually book a profit of $21.9 billion. The bank bailouts are said to have produced another $16 billion in profits, while the mortgage securities buys are currently underwater to the tune of $46 billion. The $29 billion figure could go further up or down based upon the price of the initial public offerings at General Motors and Chrysler. The government put $43 billion into The General in exchange for 60.8 percent of the company's stock, and another $12 billion for a 10 percent stake in Chrysler. GM's IPO is expected to open next month, though the feds aren't expected to sell off all of its shares in the first offering. Industry watchers suggest that Chrysler's IPO could happen in 2011.

[Source: The Detroit News | Image: Mario Tama/Getty]