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Bailout Nation: How Greed and Easy Money Corrupted Wall Street and Shook the World Economy by Aaron Task, Barry Ritholtz

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Chapter 2. The Creation of the Federal Reserve, and Its Role in Creating Our Bailout Nation

 

I am a most unhappy man. I have unwittingly ruined my country. A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is concentrated. The growth of the nation, therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of a few men. We have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated Governments in the civilized world.

 
 --President Woodrow Wilson[2]

As much as I tried to steer clear of writing a history of central banking, it was all but impossible. Any examination of bailouts in the United States would be incomplete if the role of the Federal Reserve System were omitted. I will endeavor to keep it brief and relatively painless.

It is crucial to understand the role of the Fed, and how it has radically expanded over time, if you are to have any hope of comprehending the modern era of Bailout Nation. Since March 2008, so many different financial bailouts have been funded directly by the Fed—into investment banks, government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs), brokerage firms, money market funds, even the overall stock market—that we could not discuss bailouts intelligently and avoid mentioning the Fed. It is front and center in this mess.

The role of emergency fixer was not part of the Fed's original mission statement. At the end of the eighteenth century, prior to the creation of a central bank, currencies from as many as 50 nations ...

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