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Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of the Bubble Economy Paperback – January 1, 2009

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About the Author

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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 170 pages
  • Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers; 1 edition (January 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0981576990
  • ISBN-13: 978-0981576992
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #857,338 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dean Baker has written extensively on the bubble economy over the last decade and was one of the first economists to recognize the stock and housing bubbles and explicitly warn of the risk of their collapse. Previously a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute and a consultant to the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress. Baker now co-directs the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. His blog at American Prospect, 'Beat the Press,' features commentary on economic reporting. In addition to Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of the Bubble Economy (PoliPointPress, 2008), he has written The United States Since 1980 (Cambridge University Press, 2007) and The Conservative Nanny State: How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer (Center for Economic and Policy Research, 2006). His columns have appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, the Washington Post, the Financial Times, the Guardian, American Prospect, and Truthout. He received his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Michigan.

Customer Reviews

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93 of 100 people found the following review helpful By Michael Emmett Brady on January 19, 2009
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent book.The author traces the problem back to 1980.However,it was the Carter administration that started on the road to deregulation in 1978 and 1979,although it is true that the Reagan administration , the two Bush administrations,and the Clinton-Gore administration increased the tempo of deregulation a 100 fold.A common confusion runs through all of these administrations.The misbelief that speculation is enterprise/entrepreneurship is the common confusion held in all of the administrations named above.Adam Smith spent 80 pages in his The Wealth of Nations carefully demonstrating what the consequences would be if the banks loan to speculators or are allowed to speculate on their own.Smith's conclusion was that the savings of the depositors would be wasted and destroyed.Smith reached these conclusions based on his study of the Mississippi and South Sea bubbles that decimated Europe in the 1719-1721 time period.The author, unknowingly, essentially repeats Smith's analysis but substitutes the bubbles of the 1980's,1990's ,and 2000's in the United States of America as the reference point.

The author correctly shows that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC),which is supposed to regulate the now collapsed investment banks ,was packed with appointees who were actually trying NOT to regulate .The same goes for the Federsl Reserve System (FRS).Except for the years 1938-1952,the FRS has been run by the big,giant private commercial banks.Too many FRS board members in Washington viewed themselves as cheer leaders for the speculative practices of the major banks.

Academia provided the intellectual fig leaf with a pseudo scientific theory called the Efficient Market Hypothesis(EMH).
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Chris on March 2, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Well we are in a serious economic recession. How did we get here? Rush Limbaugh endlessly repeats that it was caused by laws like the Community Redevelopment Act (CRA) and other efforts by Democratic politician to terrorize the banks into making loans to low income people. Of course in reality, any loans made under the CRA were too small to have any impact on the financial crises, even assuming that a large number of them defaulted. In this book, Dr. Baker does not mention the argument about the CRA possibly because this book went to press before the argument about the CRA became prominent and also possibly because there is no empirical evidence to support Limbaugh's argument.

Dr. Baker explains how an increasing share (perhaps 25 percent of corporate profits) of our economy is dominated by finance. Deregulation of finance during the 1970's and beyond allowed lenders to circulate a staggering amount of money throughout the world. American manufacturing began to seriously decline in the 70's and the trade deficit ballooned. Productivity growth in the United States was very low in the 70's, through the Reagan-Bush Sr. years and Clinton's first term. Then, for unknown reasons, productivity started to pick up substantially. Investors began to speculate in the stock of emergent companies involved in the internet and related fields, which drove the stock prices of these companies into the stratosphere, even as few of the companies were actually registering any profit. The impressive stock market performance of these companies versus their poor performance in the real economy was reflected in the Price to Earnings (PE) ratio. In the past, according to Baker, the PE was around 14 to 1. But in 2000, it reached 30 to 1.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By J. Grattan VINE VOICE on February 25, 2009
Format: Paperback
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.
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