The Troubled Asset Relief Program, commonly referred to as TARP, is a program of the United States government to purchase assets and equity from financial institutions to strengthen the financial sector. It is the largest component of the government's measures in 2008 to address the subprime mortgage crisis.
TARP allows the United States Department of the Treasury to purchase or insure up to $700 billion of "troubled assets", defined as
"(A) residential or commercial mortgages and any securities, obligations, or other instruments that are based on or related to such mortgages, that in each case was originated or issued on or before March 14, 2008, the purchase of which the Secretary determines promotes financial market stability; and
(B) any other financial instrument that the Secretary, after consultation with the Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, determines the purchase of which is necessary to promote financial market stability, but only upon transmittal of such determination, in writing, to the appropriate committees of Congress."
In short, this allows the Treasury to purchase illiquid, difficult-to-value assets from banks and other financial institutions. The targeted assets can be collateralized debt obligations, which were sold in a booming market until 2007 when they were hit by widespread foreclosures on the underlying loans. TARP is intended to improve the liquidity of these assets by purchasing them using secondary market mechanisms, thus allowing participating institutions to stabilize their balance sheets and avoid further losses.
Basically the banks made bad decisions and bad investments based on short term greed, then the government steps in and says, "we'll buy all your terrible investments from you!" That isn't capitalism. Capitalism isn't to blame for this mess. Lack of capitalism is what is to blame! Your elected officials took your money and gave it to private business and that is theft, plain and simple.