As the banking system goes from bad to worse, it is vital for the Obama team to take quick advantage of the once-ignored guarantee powers provided in the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

This will work a lot faster than capital injections or a "bad bank." Using the federal government as an insurer, not an asset acquirer, is a lot easier on the federal deficit — a critical factor as President Obama faces a phalanx of unpleasant choices. Choosing among them will require disciplined focus on the financial market's recovery.

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