Books A Fighting ChanceI am knocked out!  Listening to the Audible version which she, herself, reads.  Highly recommend.  The timbre of her voice as she reads, especially through some difficult memories, really brings home what she experienced and is telling us.  [Yep, I choked up a few times.] Her encounter with a well-respected professor who had helped re-write the bankruptcy laws and had no idea who declared bankruptcy, or why, set her on her present course.

I could have used more detail about the Bankers “Reform the Bankruptcy Laws” bill which President Clinton vetoed and President George W Bush signed into law (natch.)  She is good at telling about the fight she and others put up, but I didn’t come away with a bullet point list of what was changed to the detriment of those who seek the shelter of bankruptcy.

If you had any notion that the Treasury Department under Hank Paulson and his successor Timothy Geithner were concerned with what was the best, most equitable way to deal with the financial melt-down of 2008, she disabuses you.  The Congressional Oversight Panel (COP), of TARP,  of which she was the Chair, was lied to about a pending second bailout to Citi bank and when trying to look into the basis for Treasury’s banking “stress tests” was denied access to the documents over which they had oversight responsibility.  When she asked Geithner why foreclosure relief to homeowners — one of the prime reasons for TARP– was so slow in coming, she was told that the relief had to be tapered so as not to overwhelm the banks; foreclosure relief to homeowners had to provide a foamed runway for ailing banks.  The outraged wonder in her voice when she says this is the underline the text needs.

Her story about Lawrence Summers, then President Obama’s Director of the National Economic Council, is almost as appalling.  After a long policy wonk dinner he leans back in his chair and tells her she can chose to be an outsider, and never listened to, or an insider with great power.  There is only one rule: Insiders never criticize Insiders.  Her hair almost bursts into flame.

Some have complained there is too much personal stuff and not enough wonk, a complaint I would ordinarily share, and might have here,  had I read it, but listening as she talks the balance seems right.  The policy comes out of her experiences (well maybe not her love of dogs) and so the one supports the other.  It doesn’t feel like a made-for-a-campaign book but a real, and another, effort to share what she knows about the history and current ability of the powerful to shape the economic landscape to suit themselves.  It is damning, and frightening stuff.

If only we had another hundred or so with her knowledge combined with fire….

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She has several other books that are worth looking at.  The Two Income Trap first brought her to the attention of the policy elite. Using a decade of research she and her daughter, Amalia, show how the economic playing fields for their two generations differ widely.

Today’s two-income family earns 75% more money than its single-income counterpart of a generation ago, but actually has less discretionary income once their fixed monthly bills are paid.How did this happen? Warren and Tyagi provide convincing evidence that the culprit is not “overconsumption,” as many critics have charged. Instead, they point to the ferocious bidding war for housing and education that has quietly engulfed America’s suburbs.

All Your Worth, also written with her daughter, moves from policy analysis and recommendations to consumer education and self-help.  Although she has shown time and again that bankruptcy is not the result of profligate spending on non-essentials by lazy and careless deadbeats, there is knowledge and tools which can help people get ready for the almost inevitable turns of fortune that can sink once floating household boats.  Above all she says — you can not borrow your way out of debt!  Do not listen to the opportunistic loan sharks when they come calling. Kick ’em out and get a plan and the help that will actually help, not that which will bring you to the bottom.