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Publisher's Summary

"Whatever it takes."

That was Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's vow as the worst financial panic in more than 50 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 thrust into a role as one of the most important people in the world, he was compelled to boldness by circumstances he never anticipated.

The president of the United States can respond instantly to a missile attack with America's military might, but he cannot respond to a financial crisis with real money unless Congress acts. The Fed chairman can. Bernanke did. Under his leadership the Fed spearheaded the biggest government intervention in more than half a century and effectively became the fourth branch of government, with no direct accountability to the nation's voters.

Believing that the economic catastrophe of the 1930s was largely the fault of a sluggish and wrongheaded Federal Reserve, Bernanke was determined not to repeat that epic mistake. In this penetrating look inside the most powerful economic institution in the world, David Wessel illuminates its opaque and undemocratic inner workings, while revealing how the Bernanke Fed led the desperate effort to prevent the world's financial engine from grinding to a halt.

©2009 David Wessel; (P)2009 Random House

Critic Reviews

"David Wessel brings his deep knowledge of the Federal Reserve and U.S. politics and economics to a topic that will be studied by historians for decades to come....No one can understand what happened and what did not happen without reading this book." (Joseph E. Stiglitz, winner of the Nobel Prize in economics and author of Globalization and its Discontents)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
  • Daniel
  • Frankfurt am MainGermany
  • 10-17-09

A must-read for Fed watchers

It is a well-researched book giving the Fed's side of the story of how the present financial crisis developed and was managed. A must-read for those interested in politics and policy of money, inflation, financial markets and financial stability, to be read together with Charles Morris' 'The two trillion dollar meltdown' (which gives a market side of the things). Taking of the Fed perspective to describe the crisis is in itself unique and certainly worth a praise - it rightly focuses on the central bank as a the main nerve in crisis management, while demystifying its workings and providing a lot of colorful inside detail. Yet a few criticisms can be made. First, the book tries to be three things at once: a primer on the Fed's history and functions, a journalistic recounting of how the Fed behaved in the crisis since August 2007 and a biographical background to a few key players - Ben Bernanke and his closest lieutenants. The way those three streams are mixed sometimes seems a bit too arbitrary - I imagine heavily indexing the print copy of the book to be able to fully recover the three intertwined stories. Also: having an European background I noticed the author is rather loose on covering the interaction between the European Central Bank and the Fed in the crisis - which should in fact be a fourth major story line. Clearly, the author simply avoided a topic on which he felt less strong to write but the effect is of major underestimation of the co-operation effort that the present financial crisis enforced between central bankers and governments across the globe.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Wayne
  • Dallas, TX, United States
  • 09-15-09

Stops boldly at the surface

This book is rich in the history of events and background characters. Glad I read it but was left feeling that there should have been more depth and analysis into the meaning of it all and the implications for our economy. Certainly mentioned possible conflict in interests for some of the players but didn't deal with the implications of those conflicts. Didn't do much to explore the legitimacy of Shiela Bair's desire to preserve the integrity of the FDIC and seemed to give a heroic quality to the "whatever it takes" approach to rewriting the rule book on the fly. So what if the next Fed chairman is less agile or innovative? What about a government of laws?

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Great account of then financial crisis

This is a great overall read about what happened during the financial crisis and how the fed saved the country

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  • ankur
  • CONSHOHOCKEN, PA, United States
  • 09-03-12

adequate but not very informative

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

The author was trying to be unbiased but did not do very well. It did provide great background and insight to the activities surrounding the crisis, and in that regard was very worth listening to. However, It fell short on analysis of the specific plans the FED enacted and their conseqeunces.

Would you be willing to try another book from David Wessel? Why or why not?

No. Looking for a more impartial voice.

What three words best describe Dan Woren’s voice?

Smooth, understandable.

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

No

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  • Story
  • Daniel
  • North Potomac, MD, United States
  • 02-04-12

Ben saves the world

What did you love best about In Fed We Trust?

Good description of how the different Fed actors work together.

Which character – as performed by Dan Woren – was your favorite?

The book was narrative, so no characters are performed.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

The book really gives you a sense of how much the financial system froze up during 2008 and 2009 and how much the Fed and other agencies had to do to save Wall street from itself.

  • Overall
  • Daniel
  • Watertown, NY, United States
  • 09-07-10

Wow

This book had tons of facts and anecdotes I knew nothing about, such as the time the fed chairman slept on his couch.

  • Overall
  • James
  • Upland, CA, United States
  • 02-15-10

Do not outwardly display any panic

This audio book is well worth your time investment. As a reader I become drawn into all the action of the House, Senate, Whitehouse, Federal Finance, plus all other governmental folks that kept the economy moving during the many financial panics over several years; (so many monetary inter-dependencies). Takes a special economist to perform these economy saving jobs! No place for amateurs here... (Job seems to require keeping one's composure at all times, offer best money movement recommendations during times of financial panic).

Nothing short of wow after wow to keep the money moving; (whatever it takes). You may learn much about acting wise / (economy history educated) during times of high economic stress; as you listen to this audio book.

Thanks for reading!!

  • Overall

Great Book

Very Informative and not partisan. Dan Worens narration was fabulous. His voice is very pleasing to the ear. He changes tone when quoting making him him a pleasure to listen to. Thank you Audible.

1 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Patricia
  • St Petersburg, FL, USA
  • 08-27-09

Facinating and Informative

Dan Worens narration was fabulous. His voice is very pleasing to the ear. He changes tone when quoting making him him a pleasure to listen to. Thank you Audible.

4 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Rohan
  • 11-29-15

great read that throws another light on the gfc

Really interesting inside story about the response from the fed, and a look at the way regulation failed to keep up and greed played its part in creating the mess, thank goodness ben b was a student of the 1929 depression i reckon