Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone
  • Android

To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.

Act of Congress: How America's Essential Institution Works, and How It Doesn't 1st Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 60 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0307700162
ISBN-10: 030770016X
Why is ISBN important?
This bar-code number lets you verify that you're getting exactly the right version or edition of a book. The 13-digit and 10-digit formats both work.
Scan an ISBN with your phone
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Buy used
Condition: Used: Very Good
Comment: A well-cared-for item that has seen limited use but remains in great condition. The item is complete, unmarked, and undamaged, but may show some limited signs of wear. Item works perfectly. Pages and dust cover are intact and not marred by notes or highlighting. The spine is undamaged.
Access codes and supplements are not guaranteed with used items.
38 Used from $0.01
FREE Shipping on orders over $25.
More Buying Choices
18 New from $4.20 38 Used from $0.01 4 Collectible from $11.00
Free Two-Day Shipping for College Students with Prime Student Free%20Two-Day%20Shipping%20for%20College%20Students%20with%20Amazon%20Student

The Numberlys Best Books of the Year So Far
click to open popover

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

From Bookforum

See all Editorial Reviews

New York Times best sellers
Browse the New York Times best sellers in popular categories like Fiction, Nonfiction, Picture Books and more. See more

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (May 7, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030770016X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307700162
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.4 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #440,892 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Donald E. Graham on May 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover
You should know that I have known Bob Kaiser for 40 years. But I feel I that what I'm writing about his book is objective.

There are lots of books about how bills become laws in Congress. I've read some and thought I knew a lot about the subject. I was wrong; in today's Congress, much of what's described in (for example) Robert Caro's excellent books on Lyndon Johnson has gone out the window.

The strength of this book is that Rep. Barney Frank and Sen. Chris Dodd gave the author quite extraordinary access to their work as they drafted what turned out to be the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation. Kaiser, by then a retired journalist, sat in on confidential meetings, but promised to write nothing until the bill passed (or did not).

The result is unsettling. This most important law (as described) was written and edited almost entirely by staff. There was strikingly little detailed attention by members, except for Barney Frank. When members sought to amend the bill, it was almost always at the instigation of a staffer with a hobbyhorse.

Unsurprisingly, the book goes into sad detail about the lack of co-operation between Democrats and Republicans. The subject, banking reform, was one both parties had expressed concern about and one might have expected co-operation. There was none. The book is frankly partisan; Kaiser, spending hours with Dodd and Frank and their staffs, tends to adopt their views.

It is also detailed; I found the detail fascinating and I think most students of government will feel as I did. I'd recommend it to anyone looking for an advanced course on how Washington works (or does not). It is outstanding, highly original reporting. I wish I could tell you it will leave you feeling better about your government. It won't. But you'll know a lot more.
2 Comments 38 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have been studying the substance of the Dodd Frank act elsewhere (see Regulating Wall Street by Acharya, et al., a nice solid introduction). I teach law but had not walked through a recent end-to-end blow-by-blow of the "sausage-making" of federal legislation. I guess I wanted more legal substance here, in terms of who wrote what and why, but (though some fair amount of that is here) this is quintessentially not about the financial/theoretical complexities (vis a vis legislating) so much as it is (as advertised) a book at the Congress member-to-member and house-to-house level, and gives a cogent view of that world, and how things get done. So, it did fulfill my expectations. I wouldn't call it great storytelling, but it has a workmanlike tone, detail and pace of events. This is a good opportunity to express my admiration and gratitude for the staffers who do so much work. As with many businesses, we tend to mostly see the figureheads, but the importance of the staffers (who are, in Congress, undercompensated by any measure of the modern financial world they are affecting) is on display here. Also, we get to see some congress members' personalities as waffling around, making friendly assurances and then being nudged in other directions by key staffers, with their message wandering around. There are many different levels of intelligence and ability on display here.
Comment 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover
Although I'm among the 90% of Americans who find nothing to approve about the US Congress, I found this experienced reporter's detailed description of the process that produced the Dodd-Franks Financial Reform Act of 2010 enlightening and very much worth reading.

He had unlimited access to Representative Frank and Senator Dodd, the respective financial committee chairman and their staff members, as well as interviews with administration and treasury officials, banking organization lobbyists, and consumer advocates. He is persuasive in concluding that although this bill might have been improved in an ideal world, the result is a major piece of legislation that should prevent a future financial meltdown like that of 2008.

Perhaps the most disheartening revelation in this book is the author's estimation that less than ten percent of the members of Congress understand the US financial system and components such as derivative trading that bankers abused and regulators neglected to control. Examples of Congressional ignorance would be unbelievable if they weren't specific -- the member during debate who claimed that government takeover of banking gave it control over 18% of our economy, health care another 18% -- for a total of 48% -- and the energy industry another 8% for a total 54% of our economy. Yes, you read those figures right. Even a fourth grader would have better math skills.

Kaiser's portrayal of Congressional staff -- with a couple of notable exceptions -- are the good news of this book. Most have impressive abilities and resumes that would reward them far more in the private sector, but they work long hours in the cause of public service.

Kaiser attributes an alignment of the stars to the successful end result.
Read more ›
Comment 4 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover
Act of Congress, by longtime Washington political reporter Robert G. Kaiser, is an intelligent, insightful, and thorough study of how the enormous Dodd-Frank financial reform bill made it through the House and Senate and became the law of the land. Kaiser begins in September 2008 when Lehman Brothers crashed and AIG got saved, then step-by-step he follows the slow zig-zag path to a reform of financial regulation that, hopefully, could save the national economy from another disaster. The issues, politics, and personalities are complex, and Kaiser manages to describe them all in detail while keeping his narrative moving suspensefully forward. Reading Act of Congress, I felt I was learning on every page, seeing behind the headlines and seeing through partisan hype. While Kaiser paints many participants with small brains and big egos, Barney Frank, Christopher Dodd, and many Congressmen and staff members come though Kaiser's prose as capable, hard-working men and women doing their best to curb Wall Street excesses for the good of the country. If you read Kaiser's book, you'll read every new story of lobbyists, partisan wrangling, and spotlit investigative hearings with new and deepened understanding.
Comment 4 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse

Most Recent Customer Reviews