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

Book Review: Behind-the-scenes story of Bernanke’s Fed during height of crisis

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  • Written by  William Grant
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  • Comments:   DISQUS_COMMENTS
In Fed We Trust: Ben Bernanke’s War on the Great Panic: How the Federal Reserve Became the Fourth Branch of Government, by David Wessell, 336 pp., Crown Business In Fed We Trust: Ben Bernanke’s War on the Great Panic: How the Federal Reserve Became the Fourth Branch of Government, by David Wessell, 336 pp., Crown Business

For anyone seeking a good overview of the Great Recession, and the role the Federal Reserve played, this book is a great read.

Author David Wessel, economics editor of The Wall Street Journal, immediately transports the reader to those critical days in the fall of 2008, when the financial system of the entire country—and possibly the world—hung in balance. Ringside seating is provided for the conversations and meetings, the arguments and debates that shaped the course of action which the Federal Reserve, Treasury, Congress, and the Administration—in that order—followed to navigate the financial system through the most turbulent storm in nearly a century.

Following a brief foray into the storm, the reader is drawn back and provided with an overview of the history of the Federal Reserve. For some readers, this detour may come just in time, as many a reader would likely be wondering just what is the Federal Reserve, and how did it evolve in such a way as to have this pivotal role at such a critical juncture.

Along the way, Chairman Benjamin Bernanke comes to life. A scholar of epic proportion who hails from a small town in the South, Bernanke devoted much of his graduate study to the causes and implications of the Great Depression. Pretty good training for the Great Recession.

The book continues with a step-by-step progression through the varied events that took this crisis to new heights on a week-by-week basis. No two events were alike, and search as they might, there was no “playbook” to guide them.

Bear Stearns, Lehman, AIG, Fannie and Freddie, the list goes on. In Fed We Trust dissects the cause of each crisis and the reasoning behind the decisions made. The stress is almost palpable—particularly in the case of Lehman, where Bernanke and others traveled into uncharted waters and felt the constraint of time to do something—and ultimately watched as time ran out.

Historians will debate for years both the causes of the Great Recession, and the appropriateness of the Federal Reserve responses. Indeed, Chairman Ben Bernanke’s legacy will probably hinge on history’s judgment of his actions. In Fed We Trust gives you a jump on the historians.

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