Do you remember the expression, "too big to fail?"
It became popular in the 70's and 80's. And it concerned companies whose interests were so vital to the United States that we couldn't and shouldn't let them fail.
Companies like Chrysler, which received a federal bailout because the alternative — thousands of lost jobs, not to mention a prestige blow to U.S. manufacturers — would have been unthinkable.
Or Continental Bank, another federal rescue case. Imagine, authorities said at the time, if we let a major U.S. bank go under. Talk about shattering investor — even global — confidence.
Then there's Donald Trump, whose near-death-debt experience had his lenders scared more than he was.
Why? Because Trump owed them a lot of money — proof that when you're a little guy and you owe money, the bank owns you. But when you're a big guy and you owe a lot of money, you own the bank.
Now enter Enron. Reports are that the president's economic advisor Larry Lindsey did in fact weigh whether an Enron collapse would hurt the economy.
His conclusion: no, it would not. It would hurt lots of workers and lots of investors but not the United States.
And that was all she wrote. Enron was allowed to die on the vine. No bailout. No rescue. No loans. No nothing.
Tough love, or just tough luck?
Either way, a reminder that the "too big to fail argument" might not hold as much water now.
Right or wrong, authorities concluded Enron was big — but not quite big enough — to fail on its own.
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