The Meltdown

Bernanke's Bailout

Remember the Y2K panic, which seemed much ado about nothing? Turns out the hysteria wasn't all for naught. According to a New Yorker profile of Ben Bernanke, much of the Fed Chairman's response to the financial crisis springs from emergency plans that were originally drafted for Y2K. The "Bernanke doctrine" includes, in addition to the Fed's normal lending and interest-rate duties, programs that allow banks and investment firms to compete in auctions for a fixed amount of federal spending and to swap bad mortgages for Treasury bonds. All in all, these programs have quietly lent more than $1 trillion. According to the head of the Dallas Fed, this will be Bernanke's main legacy, but author John Cassidy warns that "Paulson's and Bernanke's efforts to prop up the financial system have so far had little effect on the housing slump, which is the source of the trouble. Until that problem is addressed, the financial sector will remain under great stress."