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

3.68  ·  Rating Details ·  728 Ratings  ·  74 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
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Paperback, 352 pages
Published August 3rd 2010 by Crown Business (first published 2009)
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Justin Tapp
Aug 31, 2016 Justin Tapp rated it really liked it
Shelves: economics, history

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
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Jarrod Jenkins
Jan 16, 2011 Jarrod Jenkins rated it did not like it
Shelves: nonfiction
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
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Christopher
Aug 05, 2016 Christopher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very readable account inside the actions and discussions of the federal reserve during the 2008 financial panic. David Wessel peppers the account with interesting sides. Like, the fridge stocked with subway sandwhiches acquired by the fed, because they had never been accustomed to all-night meetings before. Bernanke worked with treasury secretary Paulson, New York Fed president Geithner (who follows Paulson as treasury secretary). It is interesting to see what deals could be worked out (forcin ...more
Liz
Jan 03, 2013 Liz rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
David
Sep 13, 2012 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics
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
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Calvin
Jul 28, 2012 Calvin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economy
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
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Lynn
Oct 01, 2009 Lynn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Marks54
Dec 05, 2013 Marks54 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Brian
Apr 03, 2011 Brian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jack
Sep 26, 2009 Jack rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
…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
John
Dec 20, 2009 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Howard Olsen
Apr 14, 2010 Howard Olsen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Fred Kohn
May 13, 2015 Fred Kohn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics
The snarky title and the fact that this book was written by the economics editor of what some see as a right wing rag (WSJ) might lead you to think this is a screed against government intervention in general and the Federal Reserve in particular. In fact, the author avoids that discussion altogether. The meat of the book is a blow by blow of the major decisions made by the Federal Reserve in the early years of the Panic, including, of course, the Fed's interaction with the Treasury and the Feder ...more
Bart
Sep 13, 2009 Bart rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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
Adam
Mar 18, 2010 Adam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Barry
Jun 09, 2016 Barry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good account of what happened blow by blow. A focus on the personalities and politics of this episode in history. Less on the economic theory of what happened and why. Criticism is that the author attempts too hard to make it more "entertaining" to the reader. He does this by putting in light anecdotes that aren't necessarily relevant. And what bothered me most was he forces into the story historical meanings and parallels as if he is telling a biblical story and the characters are living out th ...more
Nicholas
Jun 13, 2012 Nicholas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
Chris
Jul 30, 2011 Chris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 23, 2010 Quinn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Craig
Jun 15, 2010 Craig rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Nilesh
Jul 29, 2011 Nilesh rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 27, 2009 Kevin Scott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Kate S.
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.
C
Jul 28, 2010 C rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 02, 2013 Meepspeeps rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Meagan
Oct 23, 2011 Meagan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not jazzed to be assigned this for school but turned out to be surprisingly awesome. Fast-paced, easy to understand even for a layperson. Really excellent and concise explanation of the events embroiling the financial markets in 2007-2009 and the government's responses to those events. Highly recommend.
Dennis Chiuten
Based on the title, I was hoping for more insight into either Bernanke or the Fed as an institution. Instead, it's more of a general narrative on the financial crisis, and it works well as such, but I would have liked to get more detail on, for example, Bernanke's work in academia prior to joining the Fed.
Daniel
Apr 30, 2012 Daniel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bankers are not often heros, but this book of course, about bankers, is an exception to that rule in that the hero is Ben. I think especially after a few years hindsight on the great collapses of 2008 this is a good one to read to see how the Wall Street crowd was looking to the American taxpayer to save them from their own actions.
Elaine
Mar 02, 2010 Elaine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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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