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The Two Trillion Dollar Meltdown: Easy Money, High Rollers, and the Great Credit Crash Paperback – Bargain Price, February 9, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Financial writer Morris explains the current sub-prime mortgage crisis that is affecting countless numbers of families in the United States and the economy as a whole. Morris details, in great length and description, where the market went wrong and the economic downfall that is soon to be ravaging the country and the global market. Nick Summers does his very best to make all of this sound as interesting as he can, but the material is overly depressing and incredibly monotonous. Summers spices things up a bit by offering a slight shift in tone and intention when reading quotes by the big business honchos responsible for the downfall, summoning a cutting sarcasm to portray them in a more comical and often realistic light. All in all, listeners will be hard-pressed to stay the course. A Public Affairs paperback. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.


“New York Times Notable Book of the Year”

"[The Trillion Dollar Meltdown] is an absolutely excellent narrative of the horror that we have in the credit markets right now.... It's a wonderful explanation of how it happened and why it's so rotten, and why it will take a long time to unwind."—Paul Steiger, former Mng Editor, Wall Street Journal

"However up to date it may seem, this book is no rush job. Morris deftly joins the dots between the Keynesian liberalism of the 1960s, the crippling stagflation of the 1970s and the free-market experimentation of the 1980s and 1990s, before entering the world of ultra-cheap money and financial innovation gone mad... [Morris's] provocative book is...a well-aimed opening shot in a debate that will only grow louder in coming months."—Economist, March 6, 2008

"Will provide some important background that will help decipher the meaning behind today's gloomy financial headlines. For those who wonder "Why?", here's a place to get some answers!"—Watsonville (CA) Register-Pajaronian, March 13, 2008

"Charles Morris, author of The Trillion Dollar Meltdown, isn't one for sugarcoating. His analysis is dour and grim, but certainly not dull. And when read against a backdrop of an ever-weaker economy, increasingly anxious economists and a stream of gloomy predictions, it can be downright scary....Morris serves up a sharp, thought-provoking historical wrap-up of the U.S. economy and its markets, along with clear scrutiny of today's economic woes."—USA Today, March 31, 2008

"[A] shrewd primer... [Morris] writes with tight clarity and blistering pace."—James Pressley, Bloomberg News

"Morris offers a persuasive diagnosis of the long-building credit crash.... An especially graceful writer, Mr. Morris accessibly explains Wall Street's arcane instruments.... This is a smart layperson's guide."—The New York Times, April 6, 2008

“In his brief but brilliant book, Morris describes how we got into the mess we are in…. Few writers are as good as Morris at making financial arcana understandable and even fascinating.”—New York Times Book Review, April 20, 2008

The Trillion Dollar Meltdown' by Charles R. Morris and ``Bad Money' by Kevin Phillips avoid the wild predictions of mass economic destruction, instead giving thoughtful, if alarming, histories and analyses of how we got into the mess we're in today.”—Bloomberg News

“My favorite single book account [of the subprime crisis].”—Business & Economics Correspondent Adam Davidson, Planet Money podcast, September 16, 2008

“[A] masterful and sobering book.”—Commonweal, September 12, 2008

“…a primer.”—Jim Pressley,, #1 book on the financial meltdown, September 19, 2008

“Charles R. Morris’s THE TRILLION DOLLAR MELTDOWN (PublicAffairs) was handed to the publisher last Thanksgiving, a fact that gives Morris, a former banker, rock-solid status as a predictor of the crash. He homes in on the complexity and the paradoxical unpredictability of these financial instruments, which were supposed to manage risk and ended up magnifying it...”—The New Yorker

“Charles Morris’ informed and unusual book, The Trillion Dollar Meltdown, provides a decisive rebuttal to all…excuse-making and blame of ‘government.’ Morris makes clear that it was an unquenchable thirst for easy profits that led commercial and investment banks in the US and around the world….Morris has described the intricacies of the American investment world as clearly as anyone.”—Jeff Madrick, New York Review of Books, February 12, 2009

“If you don't know a lot about this current financial crisis, this is a great way to get some of the major contributors, including the role of mortgage-based securities, very quickly and simply. It's a short book; it's a well-argued book.”—Wall Street Journal, financial experts Laura Tyson and Angela Chan, 4/7


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; Rev Ed edition (February 10, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586486918
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586486914
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.5 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (141 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,127,050 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Charles R. Morris is a lawyer and former banker. He has written fourteen books, and is a regular contributor to Politico, Newsweek, Reuters, and many other publications.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

235 of 253 people found the following review helpful By Andy Ross on March 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is a great book for those of you like me who are not in the financial services industry but who want to understand why our economy is melting down as we speak. It will also help you understand why this upcoming election is so important: The author describes the seismic ideological shifts over the last 40 years, from the Liberal/Keynsian era that imploded in the late 70s, to the current dying embers of the Chicago-School free market ideology that has held sway from Reagan up to the present moment. The author believes it is time once again for the pendulum to swing in the direction of more activist, socially conscious government intervention. He is not a liberal ideologue but a former banker who comes to his conclusions based on objectivity, knowledge, and lucid thought. The integrity of his thinking shines through every page. This is not always an easy book to read; due to the subject matter it is rife with all sorts of financial industry acronyms and terms like "tranch" and "quant" and "put", but don't let that throw you. Just keep reading with the big picture in mind and it will all come together in the end. It's well worth the effort!
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113 of 124 people found the following review helpful By Gene Jus on March 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am learning a lot reading this, even though I've followed the economy for years. The preface summarizes the situation and outlines the book, but is maybe slightly dense and technical for the average person. But the first chapter is great for giving perspective on how the US economy has evolved, especially the troubles of the stagflation period and what caused that. The book goes up to November 2007, with a clear understanding that the credit bubble was going to have to unwind, and it was either going to cost $1 trillion, or, if the government tried to paper it over, a lot more.
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55 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Rolf Dobelli HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on April 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover
In this excellent, highly readable book, Charles R. Morris combines legal and financial experience with literary craft. No ideologue, no partisan and certainly no salesman, Morris traces the roots of the 2007-2008 mortgage securities crisis to its distant origins in the 1970s. He argues that policy missteps under the Nixon, Ford and Carter administrations, when Arthur Burns chaired the Federal Reserve, led to dollar debasement. He contends that the decline of America's currency and its business sector at that time led in turn to the Reagan administration's zeal for deregulation and Chicago-school economics. He details his belief that Alan Greenspan's policies took America from a relatively healthy financial status to a position perhaps as dire as in the late 1970s. Morris also reveals the privileges enjoyed by an out-of-control financial services system. getAbstract found this to be a trenchant and provocative read.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Izaak VanGaalen on May 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a lawyer and former investment banker, Charles Morris can appreciate the power of free-market capitalism to drive economic growth and financial innovation. Now, however, he believes the era of market fundamentalism has come to an end, just as Keynesian interventionism came to an end in the 1970s. He estimates conservatively that the recent writedowns and defaults of residential mortgages, corporate debt, credit card debt, and bonds will be about $1 trillion. But this book was written before even more recent revelations such as the Bear Sterns insolvency. It is now estimated that the bill could be 3 or 4 times as high.

Morris gives a brief but excellent history of events that led up to the current credit crunch that is paralyzing global financial markets. Disasters have many fathers, but Morris lays much of the blame on bond rating agencies, financial insurance companies and the Federal Reserve under Alan Greenspan. After 9/11 the Federal Reserve lowered the interest rates below the rate of inflation, essentially giving banks free money. Banks then lent money for fees up front and then repackaged the loans - turned them into securitized debt - and sold them to investors. It was basically cost free and risk free, so they lent money as if there was no tomorrow.

These securitized debts or CDOs (collaterilized debt obligations) were sold and resold throughout the global financial system and no longer did anyone know how to measure their value or their risk.

Add to this the fact that homeowners were using the rising equity of their homes as atms and pumping another $4 trillion into the economy.

Also add to the mix $700 billion annual trade deficit that indicates that much more consumption over production. The party was really in full swing.
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90 of 109 people found the following review helpful By serious on March 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I rated this book 4 stars for its timeliness.

In my opinion, most people do not even begin to understand what is going on in the credit market and those who could are either in self-denial or lying to the public. This book is an excellent primer on the subject.

I expect that by the time more in-depth books are written the problem will be evident for all to see.

The last chapter, although well intentioned, is highly opinionated. However, the rest of the book is objective.
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on March 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the best explanation of the credit crunch that I have seen to date. Most writers on this subject try to "simplify" their descriptions of CDOs, SIVs etc. in the mistaken belief that they are helping the reader. Instead all that happens is that the average reader never gets to understand what's really going on.

Morris explains the nitty gritty of these financial instruments in good, clear English and that in itself makes the book worth the price.

I would have given this book 5 stars, but for the last chapter. I was hoping for Morris' input on how (and when) this crisis will pan out, and what businees model banks will adopt now that the present one is so broken. Unfortunately Morris gets diverted into a diatribe on health care and other interesting but irrelevant matters, and we never really find out much about his vision of the new world post 2008. That's a shame - but read the book anyway if you want to really understand what's going on in the world of finance today.
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