“Seven hundred billion was a number out of the air,” Neel Kashkari recalls, wheeling toward the hex nuts and the bolts. “It was a political calculus. I said, ‘We don’t know how much is enough. We need as much as we can get [from Congress]. What about a trillion?’ ‘No way,’ Hank shook his head. I said, ‘Okay, what about 700 billion?’ We didn’t know if it would work. We had to project confidence, hold up the world. We couldn’t admit how scared we were, or how uncertain.”
“Don’t try to score a touchdown. Just — if Paulson throws the ball, catch it.”
In February 2008, that meant drafting an emergency plan in the unlikely event of an economic meltdown. Kashkari and a colleague wrote, “Break the Glass: Bank Recapitalization Plan.”
When the banks actually tanked later that year, the 10-page plan laid the basis for TARP. Amid the chaos, Kashkari was appointed czar.
[ unlikely event? actually tanked? ]
Thoughts tended toward the apocalyptic.