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Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  1,012 ratings  ·  136 reviews
The bestselling author reveals how the U.S. financial sector has hijacked our economy and put America's global future at risk

In American Theocracy, Kevin Phillips warned us of the perilous interaction of debt, financial recklessness, and the increasing cost of scarce oil. The current housing and mortgage debacle is proof once more of Phillips's prescience, and only the fir
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published April 15th 2008 by Viking Penguin
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Will Byrnes
Oct 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
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.

Kevin Phillips - image fromi

This is a very thoughtful, information-rich look at the shaky underpinnings of the contemporary American economy. (circa
Aug 13, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: american, non-fiction
This book is both prescient and dated. It covers the credit crisis up the end of 2007 and correctly forecast the credit problems in the fall of 2008.

Kevin Phillips is also a policy wonk and his tendency is to focus general political realities rather than just finance. Which is often a good thing, but finance viewed in isolation can be a stifling view.

Phillips makes every attempt to make his subject readable but this is still a chart-heavy book. I agree with his approach, we need the charts to un
Nov 10, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: financial
I'm a big fan of Kevin Phillips, but this one disappointed me. It seemed rushed at times (perhaps because his publisher wanted the book to be one of the first "financial crisis" books to hit the shelves?) and his flirtation with the peak oil theory was intriguing but ultimately unconvincing. Not surprisingly he is at his best when describing the politics of the bailouts and the potential for political realignments. ...more
Jul 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
This book came out in 2008. This author tackled many of the situations and conditions that lead to
the financial meltdown that precipitated the economic downturn our country has been in for the last two or three years.

One concept that he makes abundantly clear in this presentation is history has a way of repeating itself. Attendant to the foregoing goes something like this, 'those who ignore or refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it (history, that is)'. A good deal of the material
Dec 21, 2008 rated it liked it
My buddy Sue B. recommended this author over the summer, (2008). I couldn't find anything at the library other than this one and had to put it on hold and wait. Just got it a few weeks ago and, wow. What a difference a few months make. If I'd read this over the summer my eyes would have rolled back in my head and stayed there (!) as I tried to absorb the now all too familiar terms; securitization of risk, credit default swaps, tranches, or derivatives. Reading this book soon after the swoon in t ...more
Jun 12, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kevin Phillips indictment of American financial policy, greed, and political incompetence is remarkable if for no other reason than his background. Phillips places most of the blame for the bailouts, bloated financial institutions, emphasis on an economy that makes money by shuffling paper and chased off manufacturing, 70 percent on Republicans. He particularly trashes both Bush presidencies -- Clinton as well, to a slightly lesser extent -- for cozying up to the wealthy, deregulating financial ...more
Oct 14, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: history, politics
This was my attempt to learn about the financial market's meltdown, and I have to admit that this book bored me to tears. Perhaps it is because I tried listening to it, but whatever the reason I felt like this book was more of a jumbled-up tirade rather than a critical analysis. Yes, I would agree with Phillips' conculsion that our economy's dependence on the financial sector, which in essence just pushes money back and forth, is largely to blame for this current recession. I didn't need to hear ...more
James Jacobsen
Jan 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Am half way through, having stalled due to other books but this tome is a marvelous study of our global financial system and in particular how here the government intervenes to protect those who run roughshod over the rest of us with their bad actions. It was written a year before the great crash of 2008 but the author had the coming disaster well in sight.

Am done-one of the curious points in the book was the idea of peak oil which didn't happen due to oil shales and the like but it is a great i
Oct 12, 2008 rated it liked it
I've read other books by Phillips, which both adds to my understanding of his arguments and increases my dislike of his writing style. He makes some very good points about why the US is looking at a dim political and economic future, but he fails to account for the power of the US military and its alliances across the globe. ...more
William Schram
Oct 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
The problem with reading a book written in 2008 about the global economic crisis is that if you read one of them you have read most of them. The book becomes a snapshot of those unique times, and this book is no different. Bad Money is a book written by Kevin Phillips. It discusses how the Global Economic Crisis and Housing Bubble affected how America was seen globally as a safe investment. I don’t know if this still applies to today, but a lot of his points are quite salient even today.

This boo
Aug 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: society-politics
Bad Money is a thorough examination of the developments in the financial industry (and developments between the financial industry and government) which laid the foundation for the 2008 financial meltdown. The book was begun in 2007 and finished in 2008 before the collapse. I'm not sure whether it was available for purchase in time for anyone who cared to take warning. In any case, few in Wall St. or DC wanted to remember business doesn't only go up.

It examines the increasing emphasis on derivat
Economics and finance are outside my field, so I can't make any solid claims about how this book stacks up compared to others. I can claim that this is the most accessible and readable book I've come across yet on the topic. To be more precise, the several topics, as Phillips ties together several intertwined threads related to international economics and finance. Perhaps most notable and interesting for today are the chapters on oil and "Bullnomics" in light of current events. But rather than j ...more
Sep 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"Although the subject is very dense and the writing style of is not the easiest I have read, this book is replete with strikingly persuasive arguments and profound analyses backed by scores of fully documented facts, numbers, statistics and graphs that comprehensively dissect the economic crisis and presents its root causes, dynamics and future implications in clear cut fashion.

Furthermore, the subject is presented with an historical evolutionary context that makes the analysis even more convinc
Jun 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2008
"American Theocracy, Kevin Phillips warned us of the perilous interaction of debt, financial recklessness, and the increasing cost of scarce oil. The current housing and mortgage debacle is proof once more of Phillips’s prescience, and only the first harbinger of a national crisis. In Bad Money, Phillips describes the consequences of our misguided economic policies, our mounting debt, our collapsing housing market, our threatened oil, and the end of American domination of world markets. America ...more
George Thomas
Nov 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: My Dad and Father in Law
Recommended to George by: Bill Moyers from his interview with Author Kevin Phillips
Read this book on the plane to/from Spain - check out some cool sights traveling from Madrid to Bilbao to Barcelona, with lots of small towns in between.

Kevin Phillips covers much more than just how Wall Street went crazy packaging American private debt with structured finance innovations that encapsulates the sub-prime housing market as just one aspect. This book also does an interesting job correlating the zenith of earlier international superpowers, specifically Spanish, Dutch, British soci
Bruce Sanders
Jun 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
Everything I've read by Kevin Phillips I've liked, and this book is no exception. The thesis of the book is that when empires enter their waning years, finance replaces manufacturing and trade as the mainstay of the empire's economy; and as finance engages in ever more risky speculation in order to make money the bottom eventually falls out. In this regard Phillips compares the US economy to the economies of Spain, Holland, and England in the waning days of their empires. And there is no doubt a ...more
Nov 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
If, like me, you aren't strong on financial/econ/poli sci, this book will be a challenging, yet relevant and worthwhile read. The foresight that Phillips has into the workings of our financial and government sectors is spot on. His reviews of historic precedent makes one question if we are indeed the next Rome. While not entirely gloom and doom, Phillips brings an awareness of the precarious situation in which we find our nation, and the challenges that lie ahead for the next administration. Whi ...more
Mar 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Devastating critique of the U.S.

Many readers already admire Kevin Phillips’s previous books, with their incisive analysis of U.S. politics. In this treatise, published just before the 2008 presidential election, his main concerns are the dangerous dominance of the financial sector in the U.S. economy and the fiscal implications of peak oil. Phillips covers many other hazards, from securitization to the real estate bubble. He provides historical background to explain modern financial circumstance
Nov 09, 2009 rated it it was ok
I saw the author on Bill Moyer's on PBS and was very impressed with his insight, his manner of speaking, and his seasoned viewpoints--enough to immediately get on the list for this book. Unfortunately, however, I found myself increasingly disappointed as I got into the book itself. The writing style takes many mid-sentence tangents. The main points are obscured and difficult to glean. I found myself looking for a dictionary more than I have with any other recent book (I fault myself for that one ...more
May 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone with a concern for tomorrow
Shelves: political
Anyone with a house and or bank account will be pretty perturbed after reading this book. Kevin Phillips predicts that it may not be 30-40 years before the US recovers from the mortgage/personal debt/Iraq chaos/dollar drop and oil crisis currently affecting the average American, but it will be close. Our upcoming presidential election could tilt us back on track or completely over the edge. The OPEC oil countries combined with the emerging Asian, Russian and South American economical gains could ...more
Nov 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
A extension of the financialization theme from the book American Theocracy inspired by the recent unraveling of the subprime mortgage market that demonstrates that theme, and the understanding that there will be more to come as the United States continues to become more debt-ridden and finance becomes an even greater share of the GDP. It is already the largest part of the GDP. History shows that powers that shift from being producers to rentiers soon become ex-powers. Nations that live beyond th ...more
Brian Morton
May 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you are wondering why America is in the current mess it is today, read this book. If you are wondering why we are seeing such increases in oil prices, read this book. If you are wondering why your home mortgage is impossible to pay all while your home value is declining, read this book. If you voted for bush for a second term, shame on you, this book will explain your vote and how it helped shaped our bleak future (unless of course you are somehow tied to oil). If you want to remain aloof and ...more
Todd Martin
Oct 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: finance
This book is a continuation of the themes the author developed in "Wealth and Democracy" and "American Theocracy":
- rise in religious fundamentalism
- decline in energy reserves
- a bloated financial services sector
- rise in private and public debt
- imperialism
- a falling dollar against global currency
These factors have historical parallels that can be seen in the rise and eventual fall of past global superpowers such as those in the Netherlands, Spain and Britain.

Unless something is done all of
Jerry Smith
An analysis of the credit crunch and financial crisis of 2007 onwards. recent history is an interesting topic as perspective changes rapidly and this was written in 2008 i.e. pre Obama.

phillips examines the linked issues of the dollar, oil and the housing bubble and sets these in the context of similar historical crises that did for the Dutch, Spanish and British empires and postulates that similar is on the cards for the US in the 2000s. The evidence is gloomy!

Oil is clearly central to the pro
Rebecca Johnson
Jul 22, 2011 rated it liked it
An interesting history exploring some of the root causes of our current economic situation. Explores over-valuation of derivatives and their economic errosive nature as well as the politics that have perpetually influenced and flawed the economic process and the downfall of capitalism. Interesting perspective on the huge impact of individual debt, the perpetuation of that debt and media's consistent poo-poohing of that debt. Great evaluation on the political relationships that have corroded our ...more
Dan Petegorsky
Oct 31, 2008 rated it liked it
This latest of Phillips' Jeremiads was exceptionally well-timed: while he has a reputation of something of a Cassandra, ever forecasting doom for American hegemony, in this case he certainly proved worthy of the moniker, since, as many forget, Cassandra did actually possess the gift of prophecy along with the curse that her prophecies would never be believed.

Written after the sub-prime crisis hit in August of 2007, the book very accurately took measure of its full seriousness and what it signifi
May 06, 2009 rated it liked it
Phillips was a little less focused than I'd prefer. He made some interesting links to the flaws in the US financial policy and the potential energy crisis of peak oil, a connection I've never seen drawn elsewhere, but the transition wasn't very well conducted. Nonetheless, Phillips does a fine job of showing how the focus on financial services as the engine of the US economy, and the US policy to aid the financial industry for the last several decades, has lead us to the economic crisis, may wel ...more
The first half is a rant about how questionable financial products have been created and said to have value but do not. Explains that empires that rely on financial growth rather than product creation will collapse! Then it goes into the perceived idea of peak oil and a point in which oil will decrease in amount pulled from the Earth's crust which will cause doomsday.

Towards the end it talks about how he thinks Asia will be the financial capital of the world by the 2030's. Insightful. Some data
Jul 24, 2008 rated it it was ok
One tidbit from the book worth sharing: in 2006 10% of GDP was based in manufacturing (actually making things that people can actually buy) and 44% was based in finance (shuffling money from one place to another). The book essentially explains in tedious, skim-worthy detail how and why our economy is essentially a house of cards.
Apr 16, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: finance
Another garbage finance book, rehashing all the old stuff with no insight.

Also he often copies a few lines or a paragraph from a magazine article or book
when it supports his point of view.

Nothing original.
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