Some say that the government did not have enough power to intervene with certain firms during the financial crisis. But it had plenty of power and it used it, beginning with Bear Stearns. This highly discretionary power—to bail out some creditors and not others, to take over some businesses and not others, to let some firms go through bankruptcy and not others—was a major cause of the financial panic in the fall of 2008. The broad justification used for the bailout of Bear Stearns creditors led many to believe the government would again intervene if another similar institution, such as Lehman Brothers, failed.
But when the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department could not persuade private firms to provide funds to Lehman to pay its creditors in September 2008, the Fed surprisingly cut off access to its funds. The examiner's report on Lehman makes it very clear there was no preparation for bankruptcy proceedings before the day the government suddenly cut off the funds. No wonder there was a disruption. Then, the next day, the Fed reopened its balance sheet to make loans to rescue the creditors of AIG, including billions for Goldman Sachs. The funding spigot was then turned off again, and a new program, the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), was proposed. This on-again off-again policy was part of a series of unpredictable and confusing government interventions which led to panic.
Once again, we have a case-in-point illustration of why rule of men fails where rule of law could succeed. But the facts will not persuade; we the people will continue to look to Washington for our salvation, instead of looking to ourselves.