I became interested in the book when I saw Phillips on Bill Moyers, and Moyers offered a strong endorsement, saying that this was the best thing out there to help understand what was happening in the financial crisis. From what I have seen, tough sledding and all, he was right. A better title, might have been Bad, Worse, Worst Money.
This is a very thoughtful, information-rich look at the shaky underpinnings of the contemporary American, economy. Our current precarious position is not due merely to crony capitalism or the corruption of the few. It is endemic in our system, part of a global irresponsibility.
Booms brought about by credit expansions out of proportion with real economic growth are doomed to bust. But burst housing bubbles have a greater and longer-lasting effect on the economy that mere Wall Street meltdowns.
He shows how the government consciously attempts to mask the true inflation rate (and thus the value of the dollar) by tweaking calculation of the Consumer Price Index to keep it artificially low.
Phillips notes changes in the world, the shift from private corporate control of oil to state control. He sees the increase in foreclosure a result not just of consumer exuberance, but of lender malfeasance
As boom times extend there is a tendency for such economies to begin to produce less and less stuff and more and more “financial instruments.” In short more money but less stuff with much of the paper being traded back and forth backed up by exactly nothing. At some point it goes boom. He notes one credible source that believes the current fiscal problems are the worst in history.
The book is not long, only 207 pages, but it is no one’s idea of a fast read. Although it is not completely opaque, Phillips style is somewhat turgid, despite his many years on NPR. It is thick going for the content and it may be that no one can make a breezy read out of such serious material