Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea by Mark Blyth

book jacket showing an empty walletAusterity: The History of a Dangerous Idea by Mark Blyth (2013)

I could start and end my commentary with this simple imperative: BUY THIS BOOK.

Economics was one subject about which I had little interest and a lot of hostility when forced to take it in college. The teacher tried his best, but trying to explain economic theory to a bunch of kids who have possibly never had any knowledge of how much money their parents make, spend, or what things cost is a rather hopeless proposition. At least for me, combined with minimal exposure to life long enough to seen the actual consequences of economic theory in policymaking and being able to see the short-term and long-term impact of such policies, made the content just too much of a word salad to be useful.

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The Great Deformation by David A. Stockman

book jacket Capital Building surrounded by moneyThe Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America by David A. Stockman (2013)

Yes, that David Stockman, the  man who was:

elected as a Michigan congressman in 1976 and the the Reagan White House in 1981. Serving as budget director, he was one of the key architects of the Reagan Revolution plan to reduce taxes, cut spending, and shrink the role of government. He joined the Salomon Brothers in 1985 [and we all know what happened to them] and later became one of the early partners of the Blackstone Group. During nearly two decades at Blackstone and a firm he founded, Stockman was a private equity investor.

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Theft of a Nation by Gregg Barak

book jacket with shadow of a bullTheft of  a Nation: Wall Street Looting and Federal Regulatory Colluding by Gregg Barak, (2012)

I had to get this book from Interlibrary Loan. It was a rare time when my local library did not have a book I wanted. It was pretty squeaky new; I suspect it had not been read before, and that is a shame because it is well-written and full of footnoted facts that will remind you again of why we were all mad enough to “Occupy Wall Street” just a few years ago. And the really sad part is that nothing has changed. Republican entrenchment has only become worse. I cannot understand where they get their deep and abiding conviction that the government owes NOTHING to the citizens, not even the right to vote. I am almost too tired, too sad, and too discouraged by the current election cycle (2016) to even bother to bitch about these old and wiped out of current memory catastrophes and the bastards that became millionaires and billionaires through endless corruption, greed, and sense of entitlement. These are people who do not care about the consequences of their actions: we have a surfeit of sociopaths in charge of our economy and government. The effects are catastrophic to Main Street and Wall Street just keeps on stealing the wealth from everyone else with their CEO pay, multi-million dollar bonuses, and casino capitalism.

If your personal wealth is predominantly in capital markets [then] you had a hell of a scare, but you’re 70 percent of the way back to where you were in 2007. If your personal wealth is predominantly in your home, you’re fucked. And for approximately 80 percent of the people in the United States, their only asset is their home.

— Damon Silvers, a lawyer at the AFL-CIO and member of the TARP Congressional Oversight Panel 2011 (p. 40)

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Dumb Money by Daniel Gross

book jacket with cartoon of dollar sign and cone dummies hatDumb Money: How Our Greatest Financial Minds Bankrupted the Nation by Daniel Gross, (2009)
The author writes for Newsweek and other column on money and economic subjects. This is a slim (101 pages) volume that has a great deal of detail on aspects of the 2008 financial meltdown without too much talk about LIBOR and tranches.

You can tell the author has a sense of humor by the name of the first chapter title: WTF. The utter disregard for the average person for the banksters is revealed in a quote the author cites of the still not-ashamed-enough to keep his mouth shut, Henry [Hank] Paulson (“former Goldman Sachs CEO running the financial system, quickly shifted to a clueless groper in the dark”) and the pathetic excuse for a human Alan Greenspan (BTW, married to Andrea Mitchell, broadcaster). He is, however, an undeniably interesting man when you read his Wikipedia entry. For example, he attended Juilliard, no small feat to get in, and played in a band. Music and match do often go together. But I guess it was too hard to make a living, so he moved on to economics (NYU summa cum laude). A note in the Wiki entry is that he specifically asked that his 1977 PhD dissertation be removed from NYU after he became Chairman of the Fed. Barron’s supposedly got a copy of it anyway (should be PUBLIC, especially now retired) and

notes that it includes “a discussion of soaring housing prices and their effect on consumer spending; it even anticipates a bursting housing bubble”.[17]

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