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The chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said Monday that the eventual cost of the Bush administration plan to rescue insolvent thrifts could reach $300 billion, the highest estimate on the bailout so far.

But William Seidman told the Economic Club of Detroit it would have cost just $15 billion three years ago to rescue savings and loans under legislation proposed at the time.

"Today, the bill looks like a minimum of $100 billion -- and with interest the costs look closer to $300 billion," said Seidman, whose agency insures deposits at U.S. banks.

Seidman's estimate matched that of the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, which last week priced the total bailout at $285 billion. The total greatly surpasses the original $100 billion price tag placed on the national thrift rescue.

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