The Federal Reserve-orchestrated fire sale of Bear Stearns to JPMorgan Chase has forced the market to come face to face with the prospect of massive government bank bailouts, and of what it could mean to taxpayers.

This stunning deal raises the questions of whether it is right for the government to help out a major financial institution that made risky mistakes during the mortgage market boom or whether, on the other hand, Bear Stearns is too big for the Fed to let fail.

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