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I found it tough to get excited about the first anniversary of the Lehman Brothers failure. That's because events in the weeks after Lehman's face-plant were more consequential, and much, much more expensive.
Last October, first responders—the Federal Reserve, the Treasury Department, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Congress—flooded into the financial sector. They deployed every weapon in their arsenal, and invented some new ones, to stanch the panic: loans, subsidies, direct bailouts, free money, the TARP. In so doing, they exposed taxpayers to massive immediate and potential liabilities. This year's deficit is projected to be $1.58 trillion. The Federal Reserve's balance sheet has swelled from about $880 billion pre-crisis to $2.1 trillion today. Add in the stimulus and all the other measures, concludes Nomi Prins, a former Goldman Sachs managing director and author of the bailout critique It Takes a Pillage, and the public could be on the hook for up to $19.3 trillion.