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Bear Stearns Bailout Paves Way For $1+ Trillion U.S. Homeowner Rescue Plan

03/24/2008 10:40 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Bummed about all the money you're losing on the value of your house? Don't worry about it! You live in Bailout Nation.

The Bear Stearns collapse was a tragedy for 14,000 hard-working Bear (BSC) employees, all of whom deserved a more vigilant/competent management team. It was also a major bummer for passive shareholders, who got their heads handed to them. But thanks to the generosity of Ben Bernanke, Hank Paulson, and U.S. taxpayers, both camps are walking away with about $10 more than they deserve.

Bernanke and Paulson tried to engineer the Bear Stearns bailout so it didn't look like a bailout -- by insisting on a deminimus $2 takeout price. But by guaranteeing $30 billion of Bear Stearns balance sheet assets, the Fed effectively transformed Bear Stearns into a Treasury Bill. This did a lot more than save Bear from bankruptcy: It made it worth vastly more than the zero it would have been worth had the government not stepped in. And Bear Stearns shareholders, understandably, jumped on this.

Bear Stearns shareholders still got poleaxed, so the Fed will still be able to parrot its "No Bailout" line. But actions speak louder than words. U.S. citizens who gambled on ever-rising home prices are a far more sympathetic lot than Bear Stearns traders and shareholders (and, more importantly, they wield a lot more voting power--especially in an election year).

So get ready for the Fed's next great taxpayer-funded bailout, which is now almost guaranteed: The $1+ Trillion U.S. Homeowner Rescue Plan.

(Wait--you're annoyed that you didn't behave irresponsibly and buy a house that you couldn't afford and you don't want your tax dollars going to help those who did? Tough!)