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Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of the Bubble Economy

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Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of the Bubble Economy Cover

ISBN13: 9780981576992
ISBN10: 0981576990
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Synopses & Reviews

Synopsis:

For the second time this decade, the US economy is sinking into a recession due to the collapse of a financial bubble. The most recent calamity is likely to produce a downturn deeper and longer than the stock market crash of 2001. Dean Baker argues not only that competent economists should have recognized the developing housing bubble, but also that policy makers and the media cheerfully neglected those economists who did predict danger. Baker doesnt engage in 20-20 hindsight, but documents the fundamental policy changes since 1980 that destabilized the economy and eroded the broad prosperity of the post-war period. His expert analysis explains the outcomes clearly so we can prevent similar financial disasters in the future.

About the Author

Dean Baker has more than 25 years of research experience in occupational and environmental epidemiology. The primary emphasis of his research has been on community-based epidemiological studies. During the past several years, he has focused on developmental toxicity and children's environmental

health. He has conducted several epidemiological research studies examining chronic health effects of gestational and early childhood exposure to heavy metals and organochlorine chemicals. His other area of research has been on the health effects of psychosocial stressors in the workplace and in

communities exposed to environmental hazards. In both of these areas, Dr. Baker has made contributions to the epidemiological study design and methods. He was elected 3 times as Secretary-Treasurer of the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology, and was a founding member. He is an

active teacher at the university, directing an occupational medicine residency program and supervising graduate students. Mark J Nieuwenhuijsen has been involved in various environmental exposure assessment, epidemiology, and health risk assessment studies in the Netherlands, the UK, Eastern Europe

and the US. His interests include the health effects of chlorination by-products in water, traffic related air pollution and metals, specifically in relation to reproductive, respiratory, renal and cancer effects. He has published over a hundred papers. He graduated from Wageningen University, the

Netherlands, and went to do a PhD at the National Heart and Lung Institute in London, UK. For his post doc he went to the University of California, Davis, USA after which he took up a faculty position atImperial College London, UK. In January 2007 he joined the Center for Research in Environmental

Epidemiology (CREAL) in Barcelona, Spain as a Research Professor. He is associate editor on the journals 'Occupational and Environmental Medicine' and the 'Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology'.

Thomas Frank is the author of "What's the Matter with Kansas? "and "One Market Under God," The founding editor of "The Baffler "and a contributing editor at "Harper's," Frank has received a Lannan award and been a guest columnist for "The New York Times," He lives, of course, in Washington, D.C.

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OneMansView, February 25, 2009 (view all comments by OneMansView)
Audacious greed and incompetency revealed (3.75*s)

The title of this book captures perfectly and succinctly the nature and performance of the high-flying US economy over the last fifteen years and its painful, yet very preventable, financial nosedive that has taken tens of millions of average people with it. As the author states, the stock market bubble in the late 90s and the grossly inflated housing market of the mid-2000s and the attendant investment bank meltdown were not inevitable. The cast of characters that failed to recognize the situations – or so many of them allege - and/or to perform professional regulatory functions to deflate the bubbles is many: the head of the Fed Alan Greenspan, the entire Fed Reserve Board, the SEC, virtually every economist in the country, the business media, home appraisers, bond-rating agencies, the Treasury Dept and other administration bodies – the list is quite long.

And then there is the greed aspect – the plunder element. Investment and commercial bank executives knew – or if they didn’t, their incompetence defies belief - that they were raking huge fees off the sale of asset bubbles, based on bogus securities. Or in the case of AIG, based on the sale of credit default swaps, a form of securities insurance, that they had no intention of making good on. Households, pension funds, and the like have lost trillions in the real wealth that they invested in now deflated assets, only to see that wealth now held by those executives, who in the author’s words, are borderline criminals. Who can disagree with the author’s call for accountability, although there is no chance of that occurring?

The financial sector has become an increasingly huge component of our economy. Thirty percent of corporate profits in the US were attributed to that sector in 2004, a huge increase over bygone eras. By its very nature, that sector is subject to speculation: it swaps paper. Yet, it has become far too important to simply let free-run, as free-market ideologues regard as imperative. The author points out the numerous measures that could have been taken by the aforementioned to deflate the two bubbles before they became serious problems.

The book is best at demonstrating the sheer incompetence of those who should have seen the bubbles. If there is any luster left on Alan Greenspan, at one time referred to as the greatest central banker ever, it would have to be on the part of those who insist on keeping their heads buried neck-deep in sand. In addition, the business sections of the leading media come under withering attack by the author for their cheerleading and failure to analyze and investigate. And there is more than a hint that the economics profession, as a whole, was extremely negligent.

The author notes that the US economy operated quite well without being under the influence of bubbles for the thirty years after WWII. In that era workers with the influence of union contracts obtained increasing wages based on increased productivity that permitted the purchasing of a middle-class standard of living without resort to massive amounts of credit. But that virtuous circle of increasing wages, consumption, and investment didn’t continue. Cracks in the economy began to appear with workers taking the brunt of it with the Reagan era assault on unions and the competition of offshore low-wage workers. Inequality rose, with more wealth based on stock market valuations due to such developments as leveraged buyouts and the proliferation of dot-com startups. The stock market bubble was underway.

The book is short and fairly light on explanations, some of which are inadequate or confusing. The author’s explanations of budget deficits, interest rates, and the valuation of the dollar and their interactions are at best insufficient. While, it is beyond the author’s control, books written within a few months of the onset of the current financial crisis lose currency very quickly. Many painful chapters involving bailouts, bankruptcies, takeovers, and economic stimulation are left to be written over the next few months. Nonetheless, the book is a concise and scathing look at the causes and fallout of this economic crisis through Oct, 2008.
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icanadd, February 9, 2009 (view all comments by icanadd)
Actually, I haven't read the book yet, but I read the teaser on Alternet.org.

Since I've heard Joe Scarborough profess 100 times too many (I'm paraphrasing)how, "No-one could have predicted the financial collapse...blah, blah" Dean Baker's writing is comforting.

Baker simply stating, "Anyone with common sense, a grasp of simple arithmetic and a desire to go against the consensus should have seen the financial crisis coming" is comforting in so many ways.

Yes, I can add (my moniker) and now I know I'm not insane.

I do like common sense, so I plan on reading the book.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780981576992
Author:
Baker, Dean
Publisher:
Berrett-Koehler Publishers
Foreword by:
Frank, Thomas
Foreword:
Frank, Thomas
Author:
Frank, Thomas
Subject:
Economics - Macroeconomics
Subject:
Financial crises
Subject:
United states
Subject:
United States--Economic conditions--2001-
Subject:
Macroeconomics
Subject:
Economics - General
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Publication Date:
20090131
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
170
Dimensions:
8.46x5.62x.47 in. .53 lbs.

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Economics » General
History and Social Science » Economics » US Economy

Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of the Bubble Economy Used Trade Paper
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Product details 170 pages Polipoint Press - English 9780981576992 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by ,
For the second time this decade, the US economy is sinking into a recession due to the collapse of a financial bubble. The most recent calamity is likely to produce a downturn deeper and longer than the stock market crash of 2001. Dean Baker argues not only that competent economists should have recognized the developing housing bubble, but also that policy makers and the media cheerfully neglected those economists who did predict danger. Baker doesnt engage in 20-20 hindsight, but documents the fundamental policy changes since 1980 that destabilized the economy and eroded the broad prosperity of the post-war period. His expert analysis explains the outcomes clearly so we can prevent similar financial disasters in the future.
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