Is anyone else sick of hearing government officials plaintively utter the expression "too big to fail," particularly while metaphorically writing a very large checks? It seems to me that if it falls to the government to make sure conglomerates too large to fail don't, then TBTF ought to be a yardstick for measuring a merger when the Feds conduct an antitrust review. Lord knows how you'd write such a standard, though; maybe you wouldn't recognize that a firm was TBTF until it was too late.

Except for the case of Bank of America and Merrill Lynch. Surprisingly, it doesn't seem to come up much in discussion about recent events that if Bank of America isn't already TBTF, it certainly will be when it gobbles up the giant brokerage. The notion did arise a couple nights ago on Charlie Rose, when analyst joshua Rosner of Graham Fisher & Company complained that with this deal,

We have now baked into the pie that this is going to be a severe, long problem, in the Japanese style of problem. Why? Because as opposed to actually forcing an institution to purge itself of its bad assets and become healthy, what we actually allowed to happen yesterday was the aggregation of bad assets in a bad institution into a troubled but less bad institution that also had bad assets.

Others have described Bank of America's move as a gamble. What I want to know is, who has staked them when they anted up at the table?