Historically unprecedented things are happened so frequently nowadays, they almost pass unnoticed:
Government Seizes WaMu and Sells Some Assets
Washington Mutual, the giant lender that came to symbolize the excesses of the mortgage boom, was seized by federal regulators on Thursday night, in what is by far the largest bank failure in American history. Washington Mutual, with $307 billion in assets, is by far the biggest bank failure in history, eclipsing the 1984 failure of Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust in Chicago, an event that presaged the savings and loan crisis. IndyMac, which was seized by regulators in July, was one-tenth the size of WaMu.
Lehman Files Largest Bankruptcy in U.S. History
Lehman Brothers, a major Wall Street investment bank, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection early Monday after efforts to find a buyer broke down Sunday. Potential buyers walked away after the U.S. Government signaled it would not commit taxpayers money to shoring up the firm. In its bankruptcy filing, Lehman lists debts of $613 billion.
Rescue must weigh safety vs. freedom
1792 bailout amounted to 8 percent of the nation’s $220 million gross domestic product at the time, records show. During the Great Depression, the Home Owners’ Loan Corp. was the major program designed to ease the housing crisis, but the $200 million allotment was only 0.3 percent of the nation’s economy that year. Funds laid out to address the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s and 1990s ultimately reached $125 billion, or about 2.3 percent of the economy in 1989, the year the Resolution Trust Corp. was created. Today, the $700 billion taxpayer investment in fixing the housing crisis would amount to 5 percent of gross domestic product this year.
For what it’s worth, it appears – based on my (superficial) reading I’ve done in the last two days – that during the Great Depression, the U.S. government did not rescue a single bank, or other financial institution. Not one.