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Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism Hardcover – Bargain Price, April 15, 2008

4.0 out of 5 stars 111 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, April 15, 2008
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Editorial Reviews


"A harrowing picture of national danger that no American reader will welcome, but that none should ignore. . . . Frighteningly persuasive."
-Alan Brinkley, The New York Times

"An indispensable presentation of the case against things as they are."

"Sobering . . . positively alarming."
-Los Angeles Times --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Kevin Phillips has been a political and economic commentator for more than three decades. A former White House strategist, he is a regular contributor to the Los Angeles Times and NPR and writes for Harper’s and Time. His books include New York Times bestsellers The Politics of Rich and Poor and Wealth and Democracy.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; Second Printing edition (April 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1615513760
  • ISBN-13: 978-1615513765
  • ASIN: B002HOQ9DE
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (111 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,853,300 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Izaak VanGaalen on May 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For those who have read Kevin Phillips' American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21stCentury, many of the themes in the current work will sound familiar. In this book, as well as American Theocracy, he reminds us that previous empires such a 17th century Spain, 18th century Holland, and the late 19th and early 20th century Britain all succumbed to financialization as their global power reached its peak. He argues the the United States is now in a similar position. In the last 30 years financial services have grown from 11% of GDP to 21%, and manufacturing has declined from 25% to 13%. A reversal of roles that Phillips sees as very unhealthy.

This huge growth of the financial sector was not without adverse consequences: in the last 20 years public and private debt has quadrupeled to $43 trillion. How this came about has been expertly explained in another book called The Trillion Dollar Meltdown: Easy Money, High Rollers, and the Great Credit Crash by Charles Morris. There was easy money as the Federal Reserve was lending money at less than the rate of inflation. Money was risk-free for the lender since they collected fees up front and sold the securitized loans to investors. When this process was repeated millions of times, one ends up with hard-to-value securitized debt throughout the global economy. Then when housing prices start to decline and homeowners start to default on their mortgages on a grand scale, you have a global crisis of American capitalism.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Kevin Phillips dedicates his latest insightful work of political and economic history to his grandson. It's a fitting tribute since, by the author's reckoning, the aforementioned young man might be well into his forties, and the U.S. deeply into its post-imperial senescence, by the time the mischief explained in the pages of Bad Money is fully digested by the earth's economic system.

Instead of reflecting upon and compensating for the turn to an unprecedented expansion of finance capitalism that today supersedes manufacturing in this nation by at least six percent of GDP, Wall Street, our empire's "coliseum," chose instead to gamble upon the promulgation of an unregulated class of investments known as derivatives, the size and scope of which, particularly in terms of their capacity to hedge against risk, could only be guessed at. So much for the efficacy of market deregulation.

In a similar context, it was sadly hilarious to hear former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin state recently that no one could have guessed the present debacle. Or, to recall that Hillary Clinton had proposed a blue ribbon committee, presumably to be chaired or co-chaired by Allan Greenspan, to address the situation.

Warren Buffett has been on record for denouncing derivatives as "weapons of financial mass destruction" since at least 2003. Even so, to paraphrase Pete Seeger, "the big fool(s)" at Citibank and Bear Stearns, "said to push on." Privatize the profits and socialize the losses.

At present, these so-called derivative financial "instruments" are embedded deeply in every sphere of global economic activity, from domestic pension funds to the portfolios of credulous investors throughout the world who believed in the transparency of the U.S. market system.
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Format: Hardcover
"Bad Money" is about the insecurity of America's future given a debt-gorged financial sector, and vulnerability caused by expensive dependence on imported oil. The term refers not just to the depreciated dollar but also dangerous attitudes and flawed financial products.

Phillips points out that over the last 30 years, financial services have nearly doubled to a record 20% of GDP (and an even greater share of corporate profits - 54% in '04), while manufacturing's share has halved to 13% (10% of profits), greatly imperiling the economy. En route, Washington has provided government bailouts and/or liquidity when financial institutions or methodologies got themselves into trouble (eg. S&L crisis; Citibank forced into technical failure, but allowed to stay open; bailing out junk bond investors by lowering federal funds rate; etc.), encouraging bigger problems down the road.

The positive impact of borrowing has declined about 60-70% from the 1970s-80s when such monies would mostly be used for factory and highway construction, compared to today's increasingly likely use for increasing leverage for LBOs, M&A, and hedge funds. Meanwhile, the negative likelihood of families experiencing a 50% drop in income has increased dramatically from 1970 - resulting in a greater probability of default.

Cognizance of our problems has been somewhat covered up with revisions to the CPI (understating costs of home ownership) and unemployment measures (not counting those who gave up and quit looking). Thus, the 2-4%/year CPI increase 2005-2007 would have been 5-7%/year, and unemployment would have been 8%.
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