WASHINGTON — Though President Obama last week said the spate of government programs helping banks was comparable to a "root canal," there can be little doubt that a key part of those efforts — the Federal Reserve Board's multiple liquidity facilities — was vital in staving off economic collapse.

As the central bank begins today to end several of those programs, including those that purchased commercial paper and gave money to big Wall Street firms, most observers agree the moves were both creative and effective.

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