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13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdownby Simon Johnson
Synopses & Reviews
Even after the ruinous financial crisis of 2008, America is still beset by the depredations of an oligarchy that is now bigger, more profitable, and more resistant to regulation than ever. Anchored by six megabanks, which together control assets amounting to more than 60 percent of the country's gross domestic product, these financial institutions (now more emphatically "too big to fail") continue to hold the global economy hostage, threatening yet another financial meltdown with their excessive risk-taking and toxic "business as usual" practices. How did this come to be—and what is to be done? These are the central concerns of 13 Bankers, a brilliant, historically informed account of our troubled political economy.
In 13 Bankers, prominent economist Simon Johnson and James Kwak give a wide-ranging, meticulous, and bracing account of recent U.S. financial history within the context of previous showdowns between American democracy and Big Finance. They convincingly show why our future is imperiled by the ideology of finance (finance is good, unregulated finance is better, unfettered finance run amok is best) and by Wall Street's political control of government policy pertaining to it.
The choice that America faces is stark: whether Washington will accede to the vested interests of an unbridled financial sector that runs up profits in good years and dumps its losses on taxpayers in lean years, or reform through stringent regulation the banking system as first and foremost an engine of economic growth. To restore health and balance to our economy, Johnson and Kwak make a radical yet feasible and focused proposal: reconfigure the megabanks to be "small enough to fail."
"How did we get into this mess? Rather than focusing on subprime lending and the immediate past, Johnson and Kwak stretch further back into American history, setting the stage with chapters on how banking was conducted in the early republic. They also explore recent financial meltdowns in South Korea, Japan, and Russia, finding a pattern: disaster always ensues after governments combine de facto economic oligarchy with deregulation of financial markets. Despite a tendency to roll his r's (making his repeated references to the 'financial sectorrr' sound slightly comical, Erik Synnestvedt reads with a strong and clear voice and an appropriate edge of indignation at the hubris of our nation's most powerful bankers. A Pantheon hardcover (Reviews, Feb. 22). (Apr.) In Lola at the Library (2006), readers learned that bibliophilic Lola and her mother travel to the library every Tuesday. Turns out one trip a week isn't enough: every Saturday, Lola and her father pick out library books, which then become the inspiration for pretend play the rest of the week. 'Tuesday night Lola's mommy reads a story about fierce tigers. The next day Lola chases her friend Orla all over the jungle' (actually a backyard that the two girls have stocked with stuffed animals). McQuinn and Beardshaw keep their young African-American heroine firmly rooted in the real world, and while the sturdy characterizations and cheery, saturated acrylic colors are never less than genial, the literalness starts to feel a bit ho-hum--it's almost like reading a recipe book for 'Let's Pretend.' A nod to Where the Wild Things Are in the final pages (it's the last book Lola and her father read) may remind readers all too well of what a real flight of fancy looks like. Ages 2 — 5. (July)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
Simon Johnson and James Kwak examine not only how Wall Street's ideology, wealth, and political power among policy makers in Washington led to the financial debacle of 2008 but also what the lessons learned portend for the future.
About the Author
Simon Johnson is the Ronald A. Kurtz Professor of Entrepreneurship at MIT's Sloan School of Management and coauthor, with James Kwak, of The Baseline Scenario, a leading economic blog.James Kwak has had a successful business career as a consultant for McKinsey and Company and as a software entrepreneur.Actor Erik Synnestvedt has recorded nearly two hundred audiobooks, including The Day We Found the Universe by Marcia Bartusiak and Twitter Power by Joel Comm.
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