Every book on the U.S. and global financial crisis has a scope that it tens to zero in on. Reckless Endangerment – How Outsized Ambition, Greed, And Corruption Led to Economic Armageddon by Gretchen Morgenson & Joshua Rosner, is no exception.
Although the focus is clearly on the rise and fall of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the authors state that it differs from other treatises on the financial crisis in two important ways: it clearly identifies all the players whose contributions to catastrophe have been heretofore overlooked; and it integrates what have been treated as disparate events and occurrences, providing the background, context and the relevant relationships between the same. The thesis of the book is stated as follows:
“Reckless Endangerment is a story of what happens when unfettered risk taking, with an eye toward huge personal paydays, gains the upper hand in corporate executive suites and on Wall Street trading floors. It is a story of the consequences of regulators who are captured by the institutions they are charged with regulating. And it is the story of what happens when Washington decides, in its infinite wisdom, that every living, breathing citizen should own a home.” p. xiv.
This book is NOT one of those “partisan pieces” demonizing one political party to the detriment of the other. This book is the result of an even-handed, in-depth examination by two eminently talented investigative journalists; who also possess solid credentials in the financial services field that add both access to what others have overlooked, and a capacity to translate “financial matters” into language that the layperson can comfortably digest. After having some figure approaching two dozen different books on the U.S. financial crisis, I urge you to read this one. WARNING: Unseasoned truth can make you sick. There are no spices necessary to bring across the the fresh, unadulterated flavor of unequivocal systemic failure.
This book has it all; intrigue, power, money,greed, influence peddling, self righteousness and the tragic results of wishful thinking/influence peddling when directed at maintaining the momentum of the status quo that is killing our country like a toxin coursing through one’s veins. Listen to the following:
“Wall Street helped propel world financial markets to the brink of collapse. The voraciousness of these firms would also push the nation’s economy into it’s most serious recession in more than seventy-five years. Their avarice would finally, and forcefully, demonstrate how a noble idea like home ownership could be corrupted into something that so poisoned the global economy it was left in a semi-vegetative state.”(p.274).
The focus on Freddie and Fannie is truly a unique contribution of this book vis-a-vis the others that have been published before it. The progression of decades of seemingly disconnected decision making via numerous administrations, regulatory bodies, congressional committees, lobbyists, legislators and private sector influence peddlers – add up to providing the reader with a deep and broad sense of “what the heck happened to America?” It is truly the story of the progression of the prospective virtues of a noble notion ( increase home ownership in America) to the consequences of when,who and how said noble notion morphs into something it was never intended to be, is kidnapped, held hostage, and a global economy is held for ransom by the perpetrators.
The is a VERY important work. Superbly documented and incredibly well written. I highly recommend it.
To suggest that the “global financial crisis” is even remotely close to being stabilized is utter nonsense. There is much more work to be done. This book definitely points the way to the essential reparations that have yet to be incorporated in a systemic reconfiguration.
Finally, as the authors state: The failure to hold central figures accountable for their actions sets a dangerous precedent. A system where perpetrators of such a crime are allowed to slip quietly away from the scene is just plain wrong.” (p.xv).