By one estimate, the federal government and the Federal Reserve have lent, spent or committed $12.8 trillion to combat the current recession—and the end is not yet in sight. These commitments include attempted bailouts of troubled financial firms, funds for automakers, loan guarantees, economic-stimulus funding for projects, tax breaks and purchases of toxic mortgages. Taken in its totality, this golden eruption dwarfs any federal spending plan ever undertaken.
Therein lies the problem. With a potential prize roughly equal to the gross domestic product of the U.S. in 2008, every hustler on the planet will be drawn into the fray in order to get a piece of the action. Even a minuscule slice of the money could amount to a profound payday. One only has to look at the smoldering husks of financial giants (now mostly owned by U.S. taxpayers) to see that avarice exists on a grand scale.