In mid-February 2009, amid the global financial crisis, the news was grim. The U.S. economy had been in recession since December 2007. If the downturn lasted into early spring, it would become America's longest postwar recession. The economy had shed 3.5 million jobs over the previous 12 months, the worst 12-month period on record. Bank lending was plummeting; the few banks with funds available were holding onto them. With this massive shift into liquid assets (cash and cash equivalents) and away from lending of any sort (even for productive uses or, in many cases, the working capital firms needed to survive), the economy would likely grind to a halt. On this brisk mid-February day in Washington, Timothy Geithner and Ben Bernanke rolled up their sleeves and reevaluated their plans to address the nearly impossible task of righting the ship. In terms of monetary and fiscal policy, were they doing all they could to halt this epic slide? Were they doing too much?
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