On Good Morning America this morning, former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson defended himself against the charge that he unduly gave a golden egg to his former company, Goldman Sachs, when the government paid the company 100 cents on the dollar for its AIG debt.
“In every situation–and particularly with regard to AIG–I cared about one thing and one thing only. If AIG had gone down, it would have been catastrophic for the American economy. It would have taken down the whole financial system,” said Mr. Paulson, who is promoting his new book On the Brink.
“I believe that if we hadn’t taken the actions we’d taken, we could have seen unemployment rates up at the levels we saw at the Great Depression–25 percent,” he told George Stephanopoulos.
The economy wasn’t the only thing on the brink. In a section excerpted in the Wall Street Journal today, Mr. Paulson writes of the night of Saturday, September 13, 2008, when he was trying to figure out what to do as Lehman Brothers tanked:
Anticipating another sleep-deprived night, I arrived back at the hotel exhausted. I went into the bathroom of my room and pulled out a bottle of sleeping pills I’d been given in Washington. As a Christian Scientist, I don’t take medication, but that night I desperately needed rest.
I stood under the harsh bathroom lights, staring at the small pill in the palm of my hand. Then I flushed it-and the contents of the entire bottle-down the toilet. I decided I would rely on prayer, placing my trust in a Higher Power.