The Bullies of Wall Street: This Is How Greed Messed Up Our Economy Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2018-04-06 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 16 user ratings

" Reviewed for professional publication. " said.

" Well done. I was fuming by the time I finished it! " said.

"Shelia Bair adds a human element to the Great Recession – a topic she covered in detail in her book “Bull by the Horns”. Like the Great Depression of the 1930s, it scarred a generation. The country is still recovering from the economic destruction. It should never have happened. It was caused by fundamentally flawed policies implemented by an inept President with a corrupt administration. Bair was one of the few honest members of that administration. Her anger is palpable and justified.

The book focuses on the housing crisis that unfolded slowly when home prices started to fall in March 2007. At the same time, an oil crisis was brewing. The timing and urgency of Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson’s bank bailout suggests that it was more to help oil speculators than homeowners.

1. In January 2007, Britain’s Sunday Times revealed that Israel was planning a nuclear strike on Iran. Speculators started to bid up oil prices. Oil rose sharply from $55 per barrel.
2. In July 2008, oil prices peaked at $147 when news surfaced that President Bush had refused to support the Israeli air strike. Oil prices started a steep decline. Speculators suffered major losses.
3. In September 2008, Lehman Brothers went bankrupt. The Bush administration started bailing out other investment banks.
4. Oil prices bottomed at $35 in February 2009.

I examined these events from an investor’s perspective in my own book “Exuberant Investing”. The mortgage crisis conveniently obscured the bailout of oil speculators. Mission accomplished, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson lost interest. As Bair points out “Congress had specifically told Hank to use the TARP money for foreclosure prevention, but he never launched a program.” We should all be angry.
" said.

"Yeah, so I'm AS OLD AS THE HILLS and have to admit I did not understand precisely what prompted the 2008 financial crisis. Bair, former head of the FDIC, explains clearly and cogently exactly what happened...and who let it happen.

The first third of the book is devoted to showing different causes and aspects of the economic meltdown, as experienced by different (fictional) kids: Matt's family lost their home because of a subprime mortgage for which they couldn't afford the payment increases; Anna's dad speculated in the housing market and overextended himself when prices dropped; Jorge's dad lost his job; Imani's family suffered when banks changed strategies and rushed to foreclose rather than helping families with mortgage payments; Mary's public school got screwed by cutbacks; Zach's recent-college-grad brother took out loans to attend a for-profit college and then struggled with stratospheric unemployment among teenagers and 20somethings.

The second third of the book is a condensed version of Bair's time at the FDIC. She's clearly still furious at and scornful of a lot of the players she dealt with there (especially Tim Geithner of the Federal Reserve, Vikram Pandit at Citi, Dick Kovacevich at Wells Fargo, plus Larry Summers and Bob Rubin). She explains what the FDIC does and how their attempts to strengthen subprime lending standards failed. I presume that if any of the men she disses here were writing their own book on the financial crisis for young readers, they'd tell a very different tale about cause and effect...but as a storyteller, Bair is awfully convincing. The fact that she started off her career under Republican auspices and continued it under Democratic ones is a point in her favor; she doesn't seem like a partisan hired gun.

The final third of the book, by far the shortest and weakest, basically says, "So, uh, the future! We screwed up! Good luck, kids!"

Basically, I feel about Bullies of Wall Street the way I feel about Steve Sheinkin's Most Dangerous. Before reading these books, I could have PRETENDED I understood the subject matter, at least well enough to do OK on Jeopardy. But I didn't really know what Daniel Ellsberg did and what the Watergate break-in was about, and I didn't really understand why Obama bailed out all those banks. SO YAY BOOKS FOR MIDDLE GRADE READERS THAT ADULTS CAN READ AND BE MADE SMARTER BY. SORRY I JUST ENDED A SENTENCE WITH A PREPOSITION.
" said.

Have you ever been deceived or fooled by today’s economy? The majority of America would probably say they have in one way or another. In the book, “The Bullies of Wall Street,” by Sheila Bair, portrays several stories of families with economic struggles and what ends up happening to them. After each story the author explains everything about the situation the family was in. She also describes why it happened and even how it could have been avoided or solved. Bair’s “The Bullies of Wall Street,” amazed me with all of the information about our economy that I never knew before.

I believe the overall theme the author was trying to get across was to be smart with how you handle money and to be smarter than the system. By informing her readers of all these economic facts and explanations, it shows that the theme was to educate the readers and not fall for the tricks the economy may throw at you. The author’s style is informative and easy to follow along. I really like this author’s style mainly because I learned a lot and I could really see the settings the author portrayed. I also liked how her voice was unique from other books I read since most books I read are not as informative as this one. The characters in this book vary from story to story so it was hard to get attached to the characters. That was one of the things I did not like, however with each short story, I knew if I liked the character or not because of how detailed this author was. For example in one of the stories it said, “ Matt had never seen his dad cry, but he did that night.” That really gave me a sense of his dad being tough, however it also gave me a sense of how grave their situation was which made me closer to the story. The setting is all over the place in the United States in which really makes me feel like I am apart of the story because of how well this book was written. The plot basically is the author telling realistic stories about families who go through economic struggles and then in the next chapter goes into detail of why it happened. The author does a great job with this and explains how to prevent things like what those families went through from happening to you and other useful tips. I can connect this book easily with our country because that is what this entire book is about. This book as of now does not connect with me too much due to me being under age, however very soon this will be extremely helpful and connect with me on a personal level.

In conclusion, this book is a must read in my opinion. It is very unique from other typical books, in which this one you will learn a lot and possibly save you in the future. I would recommend this book to almost anyone, especially people who may have trouble financially or teens about to go into adulthood. I truly believe this book can be very beneficial to a lot of people, even if they may think they know everything about the economy. The economy can play deceiving tricks, it is up to you to educate yourself and to not be fooled. Reading this book is a great step in the right direction in educating yourself and possibly becoming more successful in life.
" said.

"Richie’s Picks: THE BULLIES OF WALL STREET by Sheila Bair, Simon & Schuster, April 2015, 272p., ISBN: 978-1-4814-0085-5

“Money, it’s a gas
Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash”
-- Pink Floyd (1973)

“Then something called ‘securitization’ happened, which dramatically changed the way people got home loans. With securitization, big financial institutions would pool together thousands of mortgages and put them into something called a trust. Investors--usually other big financial institutions like pension funds, insurance companies, and mutual funds--would pay for pieces of these trusts, which gave them the right to receive some of the loan payments. These pieces were called ‘mortgage-backed securities.’ Because of securitization, money for the mortgages didn’t have to come from banks lending their deposits anymore. So lots of people got into the business of making mortgages…

“But even more importantly, the people arranging the mortgages didn’t really have a reason to care if the borrowers could pay the loan back because they were just passing them on to big securitizers who were, in turn, selling interests in the loan payments to other big institutions...These ‘mortgage originators’...figured out quickly, the more loans they made, the more they got paid, so they started originating as many as possible, without regard to whether people could pay them back…

“Greed overtook the process, and mortgage originators started getting the idea that it was actually a good thing to make loans to people who couldn’t repay them, because that would force them to get another loan to pay off the unaffordable one.”

Six years have now passed since the dominoes began teetering and the U.S. government hastily bailed out the country’s largest financial institutions. Their futures and the nation’s entire financial system were threatened by the epidemic of greed described above. This greed resulted from the government deregulation that radically changed the system through which Americans sought home loans.

Now, in 2014, the nation’s economy is still far from being fully recovered. Why did this all happen? How has the Financial Crisis of 2007-8 affected millions of families around the country?

Former FDIC chairperson Sheila Bair has written a provocative book that begins with Illustrative fictional vignettes about the impact of the Financial Crisis upon young people. She provides clear explanations of what happened systemically to cause the Financial Crisis. She then details how, during her five-year term as chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, she was involved in the government’s efforts to avert a catastrophic collapse of the U.S. economy. And she explains what young people are facing in the long-term as a result of the Crisis.

Bair does not hesitate to point her finger at those in the revolving door of big business and government regulation who bear responsibility for engineering the deregulation. She graphically details how, even in the face of national disaster, they continued to put themselves and their cronies ahead of the common good.

“‘Your money’s in Joe’s house,’ [he says to one man] ‘right next to yours,’ [he says to another] ‘and in the Kennedy house, and Mrs. Backlin’s house, and a hundred others. Why, you’re lending them the money to build, and then, they’re going to pay it back to you as best they can.’”
-- James Stewart, From the bank run scene in the 1946 Frank Capra film “It’s a Wonderful Life”

In 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to help save the banking system and rescue the national economy during the Great Depression. It proved to be one of the great successes of the New Deal.

But now with so many characters in the mortgage originating business, and with securitization, the bank-regulating FDIC only oversees a slice of the home loan action. This means that the author couldn't control everything that was going on and was merely one of numerous players on the government side of negotiations as the system teetered on collapse.

Bair’s account of what happened is riveting and frequently anger-inducing. It is so clearly written that middle- and high-school students will readily grasp the otherwise intimidating subject matter. And, as someone with a business degree who learned a great deal from her eye-opening story, I can tell you that plenty of adults can similarly benefit from giving this one a read.

Richie Partington, MLIS
Richie's Picks
" said.

"Two and a half stars. I *wanted* to like this more, and the good parts were really good: clear explanations of complex topics, excellent backmatter including an appendix w/key financial terms, thorough index, and sound advice about being a fiscally responsible business person, consumer, citizen, and parent. It was also an easy, interesting read. The six (fictionalized, based on real people) "case studies" that make up the book's first half do an excellent job of explaining various financial concepts and their impacts on individuals and families, and set the stage/prep the reader for the second half of the book, which delves into the banks' and feds' side of things. Excerpts would be great for several middle school classes (history, social studies, math.)

I was also especially pleased to see the sections dealing with predatory, "for profit" schools and student loan agencies, as those are some of the most horrible and damaging financial traps out there, and ones I saw many of my low-income, minority students fall victim to.

The bad: whoo boy. So, first of all, I think Bair and her editors didn't have a clear sense of who (age/gradewise) this book is really for, and the inconsistency in intended audience made for an uneven read.

pg. 56: "You have have seen your parents using a credit card" followed by an explanation of what they are, who uses them, and why.
pg. 124" Have you ever read A Midsummer Night's Dream..."

Show me a kid or a teen who doesn't know what a credit card is but who's reading Shakespeare. Weird. The tone/language really varied throughout, at times sounding (to me) condescending.

Another thing that really bugged me: the random fat shaming gag on page 105, in one of the fictionalized case studies. "Ian told stories about Mr. Sutter, the chubby manager at the hardware store where he worked, who was trying to lose weight by eating nothing but green vegetables. All those vegetables made Mr. Sutter very flatulent. "We've lost 20% of our customers since he started his diet, " Ian would joke" ...SO, fat people fart a lot, hahahah? Why would you, in a *fictionalized* case study, add a throwaway detail about a MADE UP fat person to laugh at?

Finally, while I appreciated that Bair depicted families of different backgrounds and ethnicities in the six stories that open the book, I thought it was weird that after dropping many signifiers that Imani's family in Atlanta was Black, the dying grandmother's skin is described as "as thin and white as fancy writing paper."

All in all, I would say that this is a book that will appeal to some middle schoolers, and they'll learn a lot from reading it, but any YA readers should probably read the author's adult book, "Bull by the Horns."
" said.

June 2018 New Book:

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