It's been exactly one year since the onset of the financial crisis and the passage of the Bush administration's $700 billion dollar bailout of Wall Street. The bailout marked the single largest financial intervention by the Treasury into the banking system in American history.
But what were the factors in deciding who received bailout funds? And what happened to all the money? The answer to those two simple questions is: We don't know.
In a new article in Vanity Fair, the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative team Donald Barlett and James Steele try to find an answer. Poring over bank records and Securities and Exchange Commission filings, Barlett and Steele recreate what happened in late 2008, when the Bush Treasury Department, led by former Goldman Sachs CEO Henry Paulson, sought to prevent a complete Wall Street meltdown by pouring billions into the banking system.
The problem is, they write, "once the money left the building, the government lost all track of it…It was hard to escape the feeling that the real strategy was less than scientific—amounting to a hope that if a massive pile of money was simply thrown at the economy, some of it would surely do something useful."