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Bailout: How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street Paperback – February 5, 2013
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"Witty and entertaining...you've gotta get this. It's unbelievable." (Jon Stewart The Daily Show)
"[Neil Barofsky is] a born writer…. Bailout is a kind of Alice in Wonderland tale of an ordinary, sane person disappearing down into a realm of hallucinatory dysfunction, with Tim Geithner playing the role of the Mad Hatter and Barofsky the increasingly frustrated Alice who realizes he's stuck at the stupidest tea party he ever was at… wry… morbidly funny… one of the best." (Matt Taibbi Rolling Stone)
“Bailout is a jaw-dropping play-by-play of how the Treasury Department bungled the financial bailouts… With a prosecutor's logic and copious footnotes, Barofsky makes it clear things are rarely what they seem in Washington.” (USA Today)
“[Bailout] is an interesting behind-the-scenes account of how Washington tried to save the economy… [and] an enjoyable tale of how a prosecutor of Colombian drug gangs got drafted for the thankless task of policing a $700 billion bailout from a dank basement office of the Treasury.” (Fortune)
“[An] everyman account of the pervasive cynicism and insider-dealing of the D.C. establishment.” (The American Spectator)
“[One] of our favorite business books so far this year…The former special inspector general policing the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program lifts the lid on the U.S. Treasury and settles scores… [an] illuminating memoir.” (Bloomberg Businessweek)
“A damning indictment of the Obama administration's execution of the TARP program.” (Washington Examiner)
“A quick, intense, read.” (Business Insider)
“[Barofsky] set out to account for the TARP spending in a transparent, nonpartisan manner. However, as he demonstrates in his energetically written first-person account, he and his staff met resistance every time they tried to share the truth with Congress, the White House and the American public… a courageous, insightful book that offers no cause for optimism.” (Kirkus (starred review))
“Blistering in its assessment of the Treasury Department's handling of the bailouts.” (Huffington Post)
“In his scathing new book, Barofsky says taxpayers got shafted while the rich got richer… a true expose…. Taxpayers who feel helpless in the midst of the extended economic recession are likely to feel energized to metaphorically blow up the system after reading Barofsky’s account.” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
“[An] explosive account of the mishandling of the Troubled Asset Relief Program funds.” (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
“[Barofsky] unleashes a blistering attack on President Barack Obama’s Treasury Department and its management of government bailout programs.” (Politico)
“In Bailout, [Barofsky] gives a detailed account of just how far-reaching, and how much, the corruption spread.” (Publishers Weekly)
"Best book about the financial crisis yet" (Peter Osnos The Atlantic)
About the Author
Neil Barofsky served as the Special Inspector General in charge of overseeing TARP from December 2008 until March 2011. For eight years prior, he was a federal prosecutor in the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, during which time he headed the Mortgage Fraud Group. Currently, Neil Barofsky is a senior fellow at New York University School of Law. An alum of the University of Pennsylvania and the New York University School of Law, this is his first book.
Top customer reviews
The recurring theme is that Barofsky sees potential for massive fraud and abuse, warns the appropriate people, gets ignored or shouted down, then the predicted fraud happens and nobody seems to care. He is forever kept out of the loop. Safeguards get gutted to the point where they're no longer effective, and egos get in the way of any effective change.
I did get the feeling that there's a second side to the story that isn't getting presented. The book strongly implies that the people in charge of TARP don't care about wasting money, don't understand where the money's going, and have nothing but their own self-interest at heart. They all kowtow to the banks. Barofsky is the white knight, he and his team are the only honest guys left in washington, their entirely non-partisan decisions and efforts are the only thing keeping the american taxpayer from getting screwed even worse.
I don't know if it's really that simple.
Ultimately what I got out of this book is a clearer understanding of how the crisis started, how creative criminal accountants keep exploiting loopholes in the system, and how ineffective the bailout may have been because nobody seems willing to close these loopholes permanently.
Barofsky does an excellent job of relating his experiences and in the process showing how and why it is seemingly so difficult to get anything done in Washington. Prior to taking the job heading up SIGTARP, Barofsky was a top prosecutor with the US Attorney's Office in New York City where he handled cases involving everything from drug cartels to financial and mortgage fraud. One of his cases dealing with FARC guerillas/druglords in Colombia was to give him an early taste of what dealing with Washington was ultimately going to be like:
"In the FARC case, however, Rich was asking us to be the ones to invade someone else's turf....three different offices in Washington ... had been investigating the FARC - unsuccessfully - for years: DOJ's Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Section, the Counter Terrorism Section, and the US Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia. Together with the leadership at the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the FBI, they had developed an official FARC narrative: though certain rogue groups within FARC, called 'fronts,' might have been engaged in narcotics trafficking, the organization as a whole was not. That narrative was fully supported by the State Department, which likely wanted to keep its options open in case an opportunity arose to broker peace between FARC and the Colombian government. It also justified DOJ's tepid results after years of investigation: only a handful of charges against FARC guerrillas. I was to learn while at SIGTARP that 'adopting a narrative' was a tried-and-true tactic in Washington: define the status quo as a success, and then ignore all evidence that suggests otherwise."
A number of Washington figures from both the administrative and legislative branches appear in Barofsky's account. It was interesting to see how some - in both parties - were actually trying to do their job and get things done, while others merely treated everything as an unending series of petty turf wars and still others were either deliberately obstructive or - and one cannot escape the conclusion - manifestly corrupt.
Highly, highly recommended for anyone who wants to know and understand exactly what went on, who was responsible, for one of the most massive acts of financial incompetence and collusion at the highest levels of government in US history.