It seems unfair that massive institutions like Goldman Sachs and Bank of America get billions to cover stupid mistakes and are now making billions. It is unfair. But it is necessary to look at it in context.
This is almost a 14 trillion dollar economy. Could we really risk a 14 trillion dollar economy for the sake a few billion? As Ben Bernanke said, sometimes we have to hold our noses (paraphrasing).
These financial institutions were all lined up like dominos. They were all basically holding each other's worthless paper, but it was structured such that the individual institutions could only see their own transactions. They could not see larger domino effect. Yes, they took too much risk and caused a lot of chaos, and maybe they should be punished.
How do we look at it in context? They cheated and now they are winning. That makes me mad. That also makes me a hypocrite if I look the other way over something like the state lottery. Lotteries are taxes on the poor. It is only poor desperate people that spend a significant portion of their income on lottery tickets, along with booze and cigarettes. If you've seen them at the 7-11, you see they rarely buy just 1 ticket. $10 to someone on minimum wage is the difference between eating and not eating. The same applies to tax on cigarettes and alcohol. It's really only poor uneducated people who are addicted to these things and care that much about the difference in price. Lotteries are giant casinos. The chance of winning is so small it's not even worth considering. It is a rip off. Where is the public outrage over that? Nobody cares because it only affects people who have no voice.
The financial institutions made stupid mistakes. I'm pissed! These idiots made stupid mistakes and now they are making billions with my tax dollars. What are we going to do? Breakout the pitch forks. We have to bend and break to rules to punish these people because they made me mad. And while we're at it we should firebomb the state lottery offices--oh, wait! That doesn't affect me. Let's just fire bomb Goldman Sachs.
The state lottery is just one thing I pulled out of the air. There are almost certainly countless other situations that could be used to illustrate how we need to maintain a sense of perspective. People have a tendency to blow things out of proportion, and when everyone is angry at the same time it adds fuel to the fire. Social proof. If everyone thinks it, it must be true.