In FED We Trust: Ben Bernanke's War on the Great Panic
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In FED We Trust: Ben Bernanke's War on the Great Panic

3.64 of 5 stars 3.64  ·  rating details  ·  464 ratings  ·  64 reviews
“Whatever it takes”

That was Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s vow as the worst financial panic in more than fifty years gripped the world and he struggled to avoid the once unthinkable: a repeat of the Great Depression. Brilliant but temperamentally cautious, Bernanke researched and wrote about the causes of the Depression during his career as an academic. Then when...more
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Published August 4th 2009 by Crown Business (first published 2009)
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Justin Tapp

This is probably the first complete look at the Fed and Treasury's handling of the financial crisis. I've enjoyed getting greater detail on those events which I followed with much interest (and my students are writing a wiki about). I enjoy Wessel's columns and tweets.

Economists like Scott Sumner have been critical of the Fed's lack of aggressiveness in the crisis. While Bernanke thought "outside the box" it hasn't been enough for Dr. Sumner, who I respect a great deal. Wessel's book showed that...more
Jack
…about a year ago, America was pretty close to falling off the cliff and into another depression. "In Fed We Trust" outlines the confusing and hectic days when the crisis was at its worst. Its a look back, behind the scenes at the Federal Reserve, at the internal disagreements, debates and 11th hour decisions to bail out some of the most troubled firms. In one of the many informal and light-hearted anecdotes, the Fed had made a deal with a local Subway to keep a fridge stocked with turkey and ha...more
Jarrod Jenkins
The title says it all. Wessel absolutely adores Ben Bernanke, raving about his genius and character. Wessel is an idiot. He spends countless pages talking about how this boy from rural South Carolina is overwhelmingly brilliant. Neat? If you're looking for something other than a 300-page fanboy book about how fantastic bald, bearded Ben is, look elsewhere.

Those seeking understanding of WHY the Fed bailed out Goldman, Merrill, AIG, Fannie, Freddie, and others while letting Lehman, WaMu, and other...more
Lynn
When I got to page 150 I knew this was the book I was looking for. An account of the “Great Panic of 2008” seen through the eyes of someone who thinks the Glass Steagall Act of 1999 played a significant role. In fact, this is someone who will present a case contrary to the book I recently read by Thomas Sowell, who placed all the blame on political stunts designed to make housing affordable to all. Wessel writes for the WSJ, and so I was a little stunned to read references to Glass Steagall but...more
Brian
This book focuses on Ben Bernanke, the head of the Federal Reserve, and the actions his office took throughout the worst of the financial crisis. It is an impressive book, with excellent access to high-level officials, and does a great job putting the many overlapping issues in context with others. For those now looking back on 2008 and especially the fall of ‘08 as a big pile of crises, one on top of another, In Fed We Trust does a good job walking through each, exploring the deals and negotiat...more
David
Okay, being a supporter of a central banking system, and a supporter of the Federal reserve in particular, I was upset at what seemed to be the haphazard, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants decision making the Fed engaged in, along with the Treasury, on the bailouts of all the financial institutions. This book, kind of an apology for Bernanke and the difficult situation he and the Fed were in, explains the hows, whys, and wherefores of the entire mess.
I came away with a much greater understanding of...more
John
The book in general was a little too Bob Woodward for me -- that is, focusing too much on individuals without discussing broader historical/economic/etc. contexts. It was better than Woodward in that respect (hard to be worse), especially in the second half of the book, but still very individual-centric. The basic thesis is that Bernanke rocks.

That said, it did help put Bear Stearns, Lehman, and AIG into somewhat better perspective. And I know a lot more about the Fed than I did.

More broadly, th...more
Marks54
This is another account of the financial crisis that began in late 2007 or so and really took off in 2008. The consequences of the crisis are still with it. The focus of this take on this period is on Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve. The implied plan is to use the history and background of the Fed as the basis for understanding what Bernanke and Paulson (and others) were trying to do in managing the crisis. It is a helpful focus and the book is informative in understanding what the Fed did...more
Liz
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-shatteri...more
Calvin
This book gives the background and dynamic internal of how Federal Reserve, aka the Fed managed to handle the subprime mortgage crisis in 2008, and triggered economic depression that is dubbed "the greatest economic crisis since Great Depression 1929"

The book offered informative insight about how governor of the Fed dealed with day-to-day issues, asking approval from the congress and how they should act to minimise the effect of the crisis, which bank must be helped, etc etc.

I find this book is...more
Howard Olsen
Yet another book about the Crash of '08, this one told from the perspective of Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve. The writing is fluid and at times elegant. Wessel explains the nuts and bolts of central bankery well, although it can still be hard to grasp just how much power and money the Federal Reserve has under its control. Like the military and the courts, the Fed is supposed to lie outside politics, and for the most part Wessel describes a Fed whose chairman and governors focus intently...more
Bart
This is a well-reported account of the most important week in the last 50 years of capitalism.

The author, David Wessel, is perhaps too kind to Ben Bernanke and Timothy Geithner, but he has Hank Paulson spot-on. Bernanke is the nimble, intellectually audacious former economics professor from Princeton, while Geithner is portrayed as the pragmatic chairman of the New York Federal Reserve - before his subsequent promotion. Paulson is another in a seemingly endless line of Goldman Sachs salesmen who...more
Adam
By far the best book I've read this year. Easy to comprehend, and organized more or less chronologically (which I can't stress how appreciative I am for that). A detailed account of how close we came to The Great Depression 2.0
The rise and fall of Alan Greenspan's fame during the Bush 2 administration may just prove that the reverse is true for the duck-tape and superglue desperation of Ben Bernanke's Fed.
A classic example of learn from your mistakes (of 1929), but only time will tell his legac...more
Lacey N.
Shortly after Ben Bernake stepped into the role of Fed Chairman, the Great Panic commenced. Bernake, a relative newcomer to Washington, spent the bulk of his career in academia dissecting the Great Depression and, according to David Wessel's account in his book IN FED WE TRUST, the one thing Bernake knew as a Depression scholar was that he would not allow history to repeat itself. Wessel writes a thorough retelling of the early days of the Great Panic as the Bernake triumvirate--Timonthy Geithne...more
Nicholas
Reading Wessel the analogy of digging a hole came to mind. It has been said that, when you’re in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging. This makes sense. However, if you’re in a leaking boat, you should not stop bailing water. Both the digging and the bailing involve the same motion, just with an opposite outcome. The problem with the financial panic is that it was sometimes hard to tell if we were in a boat or a hole. The inability to know that information led to a rather bumbling appro...more
Schnitzer Ang
This is a flashback of what was going through Ben Bernanke mind and thinking process during the great panic. I would recommend if you want to see a different perspective of the Great Panic.
Laura
A behind-the-scenes look at the financial crisis of fall 2008 and how the Federal Reserve dealt with it. A fascinating behind-the-scenes story based on interviews with all the key participants. Covers from the beginnings of the recession in late 2007 through to summer 2009 under the Obama Administration.

I often wished that the book didn't rush quite so much through some events, but given the scope of what it covers, it would have been many hundreds of pages longer! It does an admirable job of hi...more
Chris
I read this last year. It was a solid effort. It did not overwhelm me with Fed interest rates talk. One of its merits is the approachable tone of Wesel's writing. He's knowledgeable about what made the Fed's response so haggard. But I think he had too much of a brief for Bernanke and let's his mistakes off too lightly. There was too much political decisionmaking by the Fed Open Markets Committee or Bernanke, Geithner, Warsh, and Kohn. Wessel seems to be defending this ---which is indefensible. O...more
Quinn
Boring. So the guy wrote the book and got it published in 2009. The Great Panic was just barely over by then and in some cases still going. He mostly just covers who goes down and how over the two year period starting in 2007. He obviously doesn't like Allen Greenspan which kind of threw me off because I had just finished reading his 500 page book and I like the guy. I got through about 150 pages and was complaining to my wife a bit when she suggested I skim the rest of the book. I did and the b...more
Dianna
May 12, 2014 Dianna marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
NYTimes called it riveting.
Craig
Great background for taking current events with an educated grain of salt.
The build up to the near 2nd Depression written in a style like a Crichton
novel. Educates while providing a thrill and a bit of a scare.

One side of the story that helps the reader try to read between the lines, for example Bernanke's recent June 2010 statement 'Not anticipating a double dip...Europe will manage ... I don't understand the rise in gold'. One part keep the panic down, one part understated brilliance, one par...more
Nilesh
More an account of what happened in the crazy period of Aug-07 to early 2009. Given that the book was written so soon after the events, there is little on the consequences of many actions. Reads more like description of events and how various players behaved rather than any account of what led to these events and what happened later. Good book for those who plan to research on the topic further or for those who were far away focussing on some other things during these events.
Kevin Scott
This is a good blow-by-blow of the last couple of years of the financial meltdown. Wessel does a nice job of providing context, but he alternates between being too simplistic in some places and unclear in other places (or maybe my education on economics and monetary policy is uneven). In some places, he misses out on opportunities to pull things together, but his central thesis, that Bernanke is willing to do whatever it takes to avoid another depression, is hard to miss.
Curt
Lots of books have been written about this topic, this one doesn't add a ton of new information or viewpoints from others I've read. I enjoyed it, because you don't always get the dialogue with these types of books, and with this you sort of get to know better who Bernanke and Paulson are and where they were coming from.

It was a quick read, but my favorite part was the last chapter summarizing his arguments from the whole book.
Meepspeeps
This is a good history of the Federal Reserve and the dramatic increase in its power over the last five years. Unlike many of the books I've read about the Great Recession, there is little "demonizing" of Wall Street and more about why some government actions worked and others failed. He makes a strong case for keeping the Fed as independent as possible, above the political fray to the extent that can happen at all in DC.
Jean Adelson
Another journalist who needs more economic training. Since I read this after Sorkin's TBTF, its poor analysis grated on me more and it added little beyond Sorkin's tome.
Kate Saetang
I read this for a class, but enjoyed it all the same. It's a good descriptive account of how Bernanke, Geithner, and Paulson handled the recent recession. It's a good inside look at how decisions are made and helps me appreciate the complexity of pouring money into failing financial institutions. I wouldn't really recommend it to anyone, though, who's not incredibly interested in the Federal Reserve.
Cameron Dansie
Very in depth analysis and play by play of the 2008 financial meltdown
Steve
Another depressing story of the financial crisis--this time the story of the Fed (and Treasury's) responses to the crisis and the ways they tried to deal with it through early 2009. focusing particularly on Ben Bernanke. After a somewhat rough start in the middle of it hitting the fan on "Lehman weekend" the book gives much useful information, history, narrative and analysis.
Elaine
Read this for a b-school book club. Really liked it, but that doesn't mean I understood it all. Basically, part story and part technical analysis of the actions that Bernanke and the Fed, along with Hank Paulson at the Treasury, took to stave off a second "Great Depression" and how much of a radical departure their actions were relative to the Fed's usual MO.
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