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In Fed We Trust: Ben Bernanke's War on the Great Panic English Language Edition

3.8 out of 5 stars 68 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0307459688
ISBN-10: 0307459683
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Editorial Reviews


“...gives a revealing blow-by-blow account of the recent financial crisis”
—David Brooks, The New York Times

“...essential, lucid—and, it turns out, riveting—reading."
—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“...a tale that’s nothing short of hair-raising..reveals in scary detail how unprepared politicians and regulators truly were...”
—Paul M Barrett, The New York Times Book Review

“Wessel delivers an engrossing account of Bernanke's improvisational responses to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.”
Fortune Magazine

“... so far the most entertaining and most readable book on the financial crisis.”
—Tyler Cowen, marginalrevolution.com

“...persuasively told and richly reported... It will win awards and inspire copycats.”

"David Wessel brings his deep knowledge of the Federal Reserve and U.S. politics and economics to a topic that will be studied by historians for decades to come...No one can understand what happened and what did not happen without reading this book."
–Joseph E. Stiglitz, winner of the Nobel Prize in economics and author of Globalization and its Discontents

About the Author

DAVID WESSEL is the economics editor of The Wall Street Journal and writes the Capital column, a weekly look at the forces shaping living standards around the world. David has shared two Pulitzer Prizes, one for Boston Globe stories in 1983 on the persistence of racism in Boston and the other for stories in The Wall Street Journal in 2002 on corporate wrongdoing. He appears frequently on National Public Radio and is a regular on PBS’s Washington Week.

This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Business; English Language edition (August 4, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307459683
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307459688
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #822,514 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I am an academic economist doing research on the financial crisis. I read Wessel's book for details about the interventions by the Fed and Treasury in 2008 that I might not have encountered elsewhere. I was not expecting an academic treatise, and my negative review is not in any way related to the journalistic approach taken by the author.

Wessel is the economics editor at the Wall Street Journal and appears to have had a great deal of access to Bernanke and Geithner. His insider's perspective unfortunately produced very little insight. You can learn (p.115 AND p.192) that Bernanke used a "Polycom" speakerphone, but not that Hank Paulson and Richard Fuld were bitter rivals.

On a more substantive level, the book continually updates a "dashboard" with the Dow Jones average and the market cap of Citigroup. The success of each intervention is judged by the reaction of the stock market, generally within the day, to the policy. Does Wessel not remember that the Dow hit an all time high in October 2007, six months after subprime problems had emerged at Bear Stearns?

There is almost no discussion of the complex, leveraged financial instruments (e.g. CDOs and CDS) that amplified the crisis and made traditional monetary policy ineffective. A more thorough account would have also explored the regulatory failure of the Fed and federal government prior to the crisis.

On balance, the book is too narrow for someone just trying to go beyond the headlines and too superficial for those looking ahead to the next crisis.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is about how Ben Bernanke / The Fed battled against "The Great Panic" that besieged us. It reads like a fairly dry history of what transpired - kind of like a summary of what we've been watching on CNBC the last 2 years. Somehow Wessel took one of the most exciting moments in our current lives and made it almost bland and somewhat boring. Sure, there are some juicy facts but only after you get through more than half of the book. Overall, there is not much revealed that's earth-shattering if you kept abreast of what happened during this time. The book is at times choppy in motion and repetitive in content. I found that the first half of the book was a waste of my time -- the set-up the author felt necessary could have been presented much more succinctly. Example: there is a section within Bernanke's biographical chapter that details a prank he played on President Bush one day by coordinating the whole economic staff, along with even Dick Cheney, to wear tan socks as an inside joke among Bernanke and Bush. There are other strange off-topic insertions, like the curious offering that Donald Kohn, Fed Vice-Chair, lived in his son's basement for a while and that he used to ride his bike to work, parking his bike in the Fed garage that was reserved for its governors' cars. And that he liked to run up and down the stairs of the Fed building. Uh, huh.

The first inclination you have when you pick up this book is to dive in deep and fast to find out what went on in the minds of Bernanke, Paulson, and Geithner, among others. There must have been some amazing discussions, fraught with fear but Wessel never quite captures this for the reader to experience.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm surprised at the many negative reviews this book has received. Granted, it is not the place to go if you are looking for details on how CDOs were constructed or the legal ramifications of financial firms setting up SIVs. That is not what Wessel set out to do. His intention was to provide a readable account of Fed decision making during the crisis. On this count, I think he does by far the best job that I know of. This book was first published nearly two years ago as I write this review and still no one else has managed to provide a better-informed account of what the Fed was doing during this critical period. Wessel clearly had access to Bernanke and company to a greater extent than any other journalist. So, if you are looking for a narrative of why and how Bernanke made the decisions he did during the financial crisis, ignore the negative reviews and read this book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
IN FED WE TRUST, by David Wessel, in the third exceptional book I have read about the recent financial crisis. Unlike TOO BIG TO FAIL and STREET FIGHTERS, IN FED is a more analytical, non-chronological, intensely thoughtful analysis of events leading up to the crisis as well as the crisis itself. We also learn a good deal not only about Bernanke but his predecessor, Alan Greenspan, as well.

In addition, we learn a lot more about Timothy Geithner and Hank Paulson, the other two fascinating characters in this near-calamity.

Wessel is excellent at explaining the intricacies of the complicated, innovative--but ultimately poisonous--instruments that were partially to blame for the meltdown, as well as in translating "FedSpeak" so that the reader understands concepts like the Fed's discount window, how interest rates reverberate throughout the economy, and how there were fundamental changes in the very structure of our financial system that were difficult even for bankers, economists and the best-educated politicians to decipher. What the Chairman of the Fed doesn't say is sometimes as important as what he does say. Bernanke is under the microscope, and this book explains what kinds of pressures are involved in his job.

What I most appreciate about this book is that it does not endeavor to demonize any of the major participants. Wessel is for the most part sympathetic to the efforts and intentions of the major players, although he definitely pulls no punches when pointing out where mistakes were made. And there were plenty, to be sure. He eunerates them in considerable detail (including stupendous goofs by Greenspan).

As a reader, I came away the feeling this was a very balanced, thoughtful and fair book.
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