On Sept. 19, 2008, four days after Lehman Brothers cratered, U.S. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson unveiled “a number of powerful tactical steps” to restore confidence to the American financial system, and therefore to global markets. Paulson presented the Bush administration’s $700-billion plan to relieve banks of toxic assets tied to subprime mortgages that had been quietly heading for an abyss since credit-default swaps had made their implosion too profitable to resist. “If it doesn’t pass, then heaven help us all,” Paulson told congressional leaders.
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