[S]uddenly the Fed is undergoing radical "mission creep." The description of the Fed as the "lender of last resort" is accurate without being informative. Lender to whom? For what purposes? Last resort before what? Did the bank "lend" $29 billion to Bear Stearns, or did it, in effect, buy some of the most problematic securities owned by Bear? If so, was this faux "loan" actually to J.P. Morgan Chase? The purpose of the money was to give Morgan an incentive to buy Bear -- at a price so low that an incentive should have been superfluous.
In 1979, when the government undertook to rescue Chrysler, conservatives worried not that the bailout would fail but that it would work, thereby inflaming government's interventionist proclivities and lowering public resistance to future flights of Wall Street socialism. It "worked": Chrysler has survived to endure its current crisis. The fallacious argument in 1979 was that Chrysler was then "too big to be allowed to fail."
Today's argument is that Bear Stearns was so connected to the financial system in opaque ways that no one could guess the radiating consequences of its failure -- the financial consequences or, which sometimes is much the same thing, psychological.
But what is now the principle by which other distressed firms will elicit Fed interventions in future uncertainties? By what criteria does Washington henceforth determine whether a large entity is "too connected to fail"?
The Fed has no mandate to be the dealmaker for Wall Street socialism. The Fed's mission is to preserve the currency as a store of value by preventing inflation. Its duty is not to avoid a recession at all costs; the way to get a big recession is to engage in frenzied improvisations because a small recession, aka a correction, is deemed intolerable. The Fed should not try to produce this or that rate of economic growth or unemployment.
After the tech bubble burst in 2000, the Fed opened the money spigot to lower interest rates and keep the economy humming. And since the bursting of the housing bubble, which was partly caused by that opened spigot, the Fed has again lowered interest rates, which for now are negative -- lower than the inflation rate, which the open spigot will aggravate.
~ George Will, "The Fed Muddles Through a Bailout," Townhall.com, April 20, 2008