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After the Music Stopped: The Financial Crisis, the Response, and the Work Ahead

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With bracing clarity, Blinder shows us how the U.S. financial system, which had grown far too complex for its own good-and too unregulated for the public good-experienced a perfect storm beginning in 2007. When America's financial structure crumbled, the damage proved to be not only deep, but wide. It took the crisis for the world to discover, to its horror, just how truly With bracing clarity, Blinder shows us how the U.S. financial system, which had grown far too complex for its own good-and too unregulated for the public good-experienced a perfect storm beginning in 2007. When America's financial structure crumbled, the damage proved to be not only deep, but wide. It took the crisis for the world to discover, to its horror, just how truly interconnected-and fragile-the global financial system is. The second part of the story explains how American and international government intervention kept us from a total meltdown. Many of the U.S. government's actions, particularly the Fed's, were previously unimaginable. And to an amazing-and certainly misunderstood-extent, they worked. The worst did not happen. Blinder offers clear-eyed answers to the questions still before us, even if some of the choices ahead are as divisive as they are unavoidable. After the Music Stopped is an essential history that we cannot afford to forget, because one thing history teaches is that it will happen here again.


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With bracing clarity, Blinder shows us how the U.S. financial system, which had grown far too complex for its own good-and too unregulated for the public good-experienced a perfect storm beginning in 2007. When America's financial structure crumbled, the damage proved to be not only deep, but wide. It took the crisis for the world to discover, to its horror, just how truly With bracing clarity, Blinder shows us how the U.S. financial system, which had grown far too complex for its own good-and too unregulated for the public good-experienced a perfect storm beginning in 2007. When America's financial structure crumbled, the damage proved to be not only deep, but wide. It took the crisis for the world to discover, to its horror, just how truly interconnected-and fragile-the global financial system is. The second part of the story explains how American and international government intervention kept us from a total meltdown. Many of the U.S. government's actions, particularly the Fed's, were previously unimaginable. And to an amazing-and certainly misunderstood-extent, they worked. The worst did not happen. Blinder offers clear-eyed answers to the questions still before us, even if some of the choices ahead are as divisive as they are unavoidable. After the Music Stopped is an essential history that we cannot afford to forget, because one thing history teaches is that it will happen here again.

30 review for After the Music Stopped: The Financial Crisis, the Response, and the Work Ahead

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca McNutt

    This hard-hitting expose will be close to home for most people - after all, no matter how poor or how wealthy we may find ourselves, we're all still affected by the 2008 Financial Crisis in all kinds of little ways. After the Music Stopped is one of the best works on the history of this issue that I've read, and unlike a lot of nonfiction on the subject, this book didn't seem, at least to me, to be biased.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Athan Tolis

    Bought the book, unpacked it and noticed the endorsement from Bill Clinton on the cover. "Oh no," I thought to myself. "A Clinton whitewash." Entertained thoughts of putting it up for sale, but in the end I decided what on earth, Blinder's worth reading. And so it proved. I've read the lot. From Kaletsky to Krugman, from Stiglitz to Shiller, and what they all have in common is an angle; an axe to grind. Blinder, you feel, has written this book as a mere starting point. He just wants to get the fac Bought the book, unpacked it and noticed the endorsement from Bill Clinton on the cover. "Oh no," I thought to myself. "A Clinton whitewash." Entertained thoughts of putting it up for sale, but in the end I decided what on earth, Blinder's worth reading. And so it proved. I've read the lot. From Kaletsky to Krugman, from Stiglitz to Shiller, and what they all have in common is an angle; an axe to grind. Blinder, you feel, has written this book as a mere starting point. He just wants to get the facts documented as they happened. And he's not out to cover his tracks either. He does not spare his former masters any punches. The Clinton administration's misdeeds could very easily have been shoved under the carpet, since that presidency ended a good seven-eight years before the crash, but there's mention of both the "well-publicised drives to increase homeownership -including by relatively low-income families" (p. 59) and of the Clinton Treasury having been on the wrong side on the regulation of financial derivatives (p.279). Blinder has done his level best to produce an honest, meticulous account of the crisis. That is by far the strongest part of the book. He starts with seven causes of the crash. Most accounts concentrate on one or two, but he gives us a long, if prosaic, list: 1. the bubbles in housing and housing-related debt, 2. leverage, 3. lack of regulation, especially of shadow banking, 4. disgraceful practices in subprime lending, 5. complexity, 6. the poor incentive structure and inflated significance of rating agencies, 7. compensation-related incentives and Other People's Money. As you can see, he keeps it simple and he keeps it all within the realms of finance. You won't find tirades about inequality, global imbalances, or the global glut of savings here. The case is built from lower-level, almost technical, stuff. I was particularly impressed by a distinction he makes about the Fed. When it comes to the housing bubble, the way he puts it "the enemy is us." People fooled themselves into thinking they had discovered the financial wizard inside them and bought more house. To blame the Fed is probably disingenuous. Low Fed-administered rates, on the other hand, are blamed for the frenzy of housing-related debt that fed back (pun not intended) into the housing market. So the Fed can only be held accountable for what the author calls the "bond bubble" but not the housing bubble. I personally disagree a bit with the author on this. I think he underestimates the power of the feedback loop between more housing-related debt and housing prices going mad as the Wall Street / mortgage banking axis went ape, "sourcing" more "product." But it is a very legitimate distinction and one well worth making. He then dives straight into a day-by-day account of the two most intense years of the crisis and how it unfolded. What institution got hurt when, how the authorities responded, what worked, what didn't, and all of it as if you were in the control room. You really feel like you were riding along with Bernanke, Paulson and Geithner as they battled the crisis. He also makes a very good distinction between the first part of the fight, which was all about bailing out Bear, Fannie and Freddie, Merrill, Lehman, AIG, Wachovia, WaMu, Citi and Bank of America, and the second part of the fight, where the authorities changed tack and concentrated on saving entire markets, rather than individual institutions: the money market, the CP market, the market for bank bonds etc. I'm convinced he correctly identifies this as the turning point where the "war was won" and depression was averted. Very importantly, this book is ACCESSIBLE. The author explains everything in plain English. I think you can follow the whole thing without being an expert. With non-expert readers in mind, the author has tons of "boxes" interspersed through the book, that explain all sorts of financial concepts in plain English: "Leverage and Financial Returns," "What is a Derivative," "Insolvency vs. Illiquidity," "The Moral Hazard Debate," "Contagion and Financial Panics," "Signalling and Stigma," "Bid-Ask Spreads," "Keynesian Economics and Stimulus," "The Expectations Theory of the Yield Curve," "Quantitative Easing," "Proprietary Trading" and "Information and Free-Riding." I really really wish he had dedicated another box to explaining what the Fed does outside of a crisis and how we have substituted Federal obligations (backed by taxes on Americans) for gold at the heart of the monetary system and that all money used is printed. He often refers to this, and clearly he is at total peace with it, but he assumes his readership also understands this. Many people don't. Regardless, the great thing about the first, dunno, 200 pages of the book is that it is a 100% honest account of how we got into and out of big trouble. I would recommend it with zero reservation to anybody who would like an objective historical overview of the crisis in plain English. The account is straight and plain, it has a beginning and an end, it's balanced and it never attempts to over-reach. Sadly, it's a bit downhill from there. Not terribly downhill. But not as strong as the first half of the book, that's all. For example, I loved the chapter about Dodd-Frank. It's really all there. You find out where it started, what's in it, how it got there and what's left open. There are extensive tables to help you track the reforms. I think I'll make a spreadsheet of that table and keep it on my computer so I can carry on keeping track for myself as we go on. On the other hand, the book goes partisan at some stage. When it comes to discussing the Obama stimulus package, it goes almost into full-front attack on the Republican party. It's a crying shame. It means I can't recommend his book to my Republican friends and family. They will read the first 200 pages, which I find excellent and fair, and then they will read what the author has to say about the stimulus and they will (unjustifiably) doubt the first 200 pages. They will think I duped them into reading a Democrat pamphlet, and a 400-page pamphlet at that. Ach! And it goes catty too. If anything, I find Blinder is far too careful (dare I say American?) in going out of his way to never doubt the guys in charge. He defers to Paulson's and Geithner's best judgement when it comes to their single-mindedness with reference to bailing out some institutions and people who had been on horrible behaviour (though he does decry that only one man, Lee Farkas, has been convicted of any crime relating to the crisis to this day) and he is not merely deferential to Bernanke (in a very strong chapter on "Unconventional Monetary Policy"), his prose amounts to grovelling. He thinks TARP is the best thing since sliced bread and chooses to not mention that some of its financial returns were funded by other parts of government. So be it. But in that context it is very dissonant to hear him repeatedly pan Larry Summers. If there is no room for backseat drivers, and that's very much the tone of the book, leave him alone. It is unthinkable to me that Summers broke more rules than Paulson, Geithner or Bernanke or that he was anywhere nearly as conflicted or involved, for that matter. My conclusion about this book is that it's a fantastic guide to the crisis for the uninitiated. Not for me, though, because I've lived the crisis from my trading desk and because I've read tons about it. With five years' worth of hindsight, I was hoping for some synthesis after the exquisite analysis. Blinder defines the problem narrowly enough to declare the response a triumph. He does not ask where we're left, other than to refer to issues everybody with a pulse knows about, like the future costs of Medicare and the need for both lower spending and higher taxes in the future, but lax fiscal policy now. If you watch CNBC for an hour somebody will mention all of that. Twice. The only concession he makes is to call the foreclosure situation a "train wreck" and to admit that it should have been dealt with better. But, having discussed moral hazard extensively, he does not tell us if he thinks we're now awaiting the next moral-hazard-induced train wreck or if we're OK. Having started his book by stating the whole crisis was caused by letting Lehman go, he does not return to the topic to let us know if this was a rhetorical flourish or what he considers to be fact. He does not offer a view of where we'd be without Lehman, of whether it was one of many accidents waiting to happen or the one key we'd have to turn to avoid the crisis (which is a commonly held view of the establishment). He does not attempt to tell us if the 2008 victory was Pyrrhic or decisive. Also, his perfunctory chapter on Europe should have been left out, it is not to the standard of the rest of the book. Same goes for his ten commandments and seven recommendations. Blinder strongly commends Paulson / Geithner / Bernanke for their "laser-beam focus" on the narrow issue-at-hand. He should follow his own advice, decide where the economy needs to head and then go making recommendations for the future and focus them around this one core. Instead, he goes scattergun. So I think what we have here is 200 pages of a five-star book that focuses on analysis, maybe even a six star book, followed by an honest but flawed three-star book that does not do a terribly good job of synthesis. I'm better off for having read it, though, and I have not found a better one. Halfway through the book I was ready to say my search was over, that's what rankles...

  3. 5 out of 5

    Maru Kun

    Found an excellent article on ten questions that any explanation for the global financial crisis must address. The beauty of these questions is that they help weed out any spurious, politically motivated narrative for why the crisis occurred. Article here: Bad Explanations for the Financial Crisis Won't Die

  4. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    A solid first draft of the history of the financial crisis and its consequences. We all lived through it, but every time I read another book on the financial crisis, it strikes me again: What a tale -- a Shakespearean tragedy. Imagine you went back in time and told someone a decade ago that the whole house of cards would collapse, that the world would be confronted with a second Great Depression, that the Fed would take trillions on its balance sheet alongside a $700 billion congressional measure A solid first draft of the history of the financial crisis and its consequences. We all lived through it, but every time I read another book on the financial crisis, it strikes me again: What a tale -- a Shakespearean tragedy. Imagine you went back in time and told someone a decade ago that the whole house of cards would collapse, that the world would be confronted with a second Great Depression, that the Fed would take trillions on its balance sheet alongside a $700 billion congressional measure to rescue the financial system, that we would enact a massive (yet still insufficient) $787 stimulus bill, followed by Wall Street reform, the possible demise of the Euro, and god knows what else. ("Well, if you believe that, then I've got some real estate in Nevada to sell you...") Blinder's book is on the short list of must-reads for anyone who seeks to understand the "why" and the "how" of the crisis, recession, and response. Probably worth reading alongside Michael Grunwald's THE NEW NEW DEAL, which zeroes in on the macro and fiscal stimulus perspective to complement Blinder's financial and monetary focus. Though not all of Blinder's arguments are persuasive -- he buys into the spurious argument that President Obama "didn't focus" on the economy, as if major additional stimulus were actually politically possible after February 2009! -- you'd be hard-pressed to find a better explanation of the cause of, and response to, the worst American economic crisis since the 1930s.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tim Hahn

    Best quote so far, from page 236: He [John Maynard Keynes] would have been shocked to hear that anyone in 2011 was still asking the question. The earth is not flat. The moon is not made of cheese. Evolution really happened. And you don't give your economy a short-run boost by cutting public spending.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    An excellent reference on the first recession of the 21st Century. Unlike many books, it doesn't use a single incident like the banking industry bailout or the Lehman Brothers failure -- and points out that housing was already in trouble before the financial bubble burst in 2007-2009. Instead it takes an economist's view of the whole economy to assess where things were out of balance. Blinder blames regulatory failures, noting the positions of Alan Greenspan and the Bush-era administrators at the An excellent reference on the first recession of the 21st Century. Unlike many books, it doesn't use a single incident like the banking industry bailout or the Lehman Brothers failure -- and points out that housing was already in trouble before the financial bubble burst in 2007-2009. Instead it takes an economist's view of the whole economy to assess where things were out of balance. Blinder blames regulatory failures, noting the positions of Alan Greenspan and the Bush-era administrators at the Federal Reserve, Office of Thrift Supervsion and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. In addition, subprime lending soared to 20% of ll mortgages as early as 2005 -- and nine of the 10 originators were not commercial banks (though commercial banks like Washington Mutual) would try to cash in by buying subprime mortgage originators. The villains in the crash, according to the economist author: * inflated asset prices in both housing and bonds * excessive borrowing throughout the financial system * lax financial regulation * "disgraceful" banking practices in the subprime and mortgage markets * derivatives built on portfolios of the subprime mortgages * failure of the rating agencies to detect fraud and weak statistical logic * "perverse" compensation systems at commercial banks, investment banks and mortgage companies that created the incentive for risk Blinder also ties in the European economic crisis with that in the U.S. near the end of this book. In both cases he is skeptical that politicians will be able to take the actions necessary to clear up core structural problems in finance.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Marks54

    This is one of the very best books on the financial crisis that has been written to date. It goes over the territory covered by other accounts, while bringing the crisis and recovery up to date. What makes it especially good are three strengths. First, the author is a master at explaining the issues and research in terms that are easy to understand yet sophisticated enough to convey the richness of the problem situation. He is a top flight economist who can communicate to non-economists. Second, This is one of the very best books on the financial crisis that has been written to date. It goes over the territory covered by other accounts, while bringing the crisis and recovery up to date. What makes it especially good are three strengths. First, the author is a master at explaining the issues and research in terms that are easy to understand yet sophisticated enough to convey the richness of the problem situation. He is a top flight economist who can communicate to non-economists. Second, the book also evaluates the various policy responses to the crisis according to how effective they have been. What was a given program attempting to accomplish? How can one tell how successful it has been in accomplishing its goals? Identifying the problems here is hard enough. Figuring out how to respond - and provide evidence of the response - is another arguably more difficult problem. Third, the book is exquisitely written. The book is easy to read and fun to follow. Reading work like this can easily make one jealous. In terms of ideology, the author is a democrat but to me that is irrelevant if the analysis is solid, which it is here. If you have to read one book on the financial crisis, this is a good one to choose. It is also worthwhile if you have read a lot on this set of crises.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Stuart

    After the Music Stopped: an excellent book. A readable description of the financial crisis, its causes, its repercussions, a rating of the reactions to it, and some suggestions for the future. I thought the book made a complicated subject understandable, though whether I will be able to repeat what I learned in a week’s time is another story. It was remarkably timely, including post-election November 2012 insights. It describes a problem created by complicated and opaque financial products, exce After the Music Stopped: an excellent book. A readable description of the financial crisis, its causes, its repercussions, a rating of the reactions to it, and some suggestions for the future. I thought the book made a complicated subject understandable, though whether I will be able to repeat what I learned in a week’s time is another story. It was remarkably timely, including post-election November 2012 insights. It describes a problem created by complicated and opaque financial products, excessive leverage, and lax or lacking regulation. The author points out that most people have the wrong impression of both the Bush TARP and the Obama stimulus (which the public equates as being the same thing). Both are perceived as giveaways to banks, which they were not. (TARP seems to have made money for the government). He plausibly gives the Bush and Obama administrations a good grade for preventing the recession from being worse than it actually was, via whatever imaginative means possible. However, he rates them as bad when it comes to correcting the problems of the individuals whose houses have been foreclosed. It seems we can apply “moral hazard” arguments at the individual level, but not at the corporate level. Anyway a great educational book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Eric Diekhans

    Alan Binder's book has something to make everyone angry, from the far left to the far right. The bottom line is, despite it's unfairness, the government's reaction to the financial meltdown saved many of us from the breadline. After the Music Stopped makes sense of what I experienced through soundbites and daily news stories. Sometimes I got a little lost in the intricacies of Wall Street, but overall it gave me a clear picture of what went wrong, and what we can do to keep it from happening aga Alan Binder's book has something to make everyone angry, from the far left to the far right. The bottom line is, despite it's unfairness, the government's reaction to the financial meltdown saved many of us from the breadline. After the Music Stopped makes sense of what I experienced through soundbites and daily news stories. Sometimes I got a little lost in the intricacies of Wall Street, but overall it gave me a clear picture of what went wrong, and what we can do to keep it from happening again. (And surprise, surprise, it doesn't involve less regulation.)

  10. 4 out of 5

    hpmasih

    If you want to understand the 2008 financial crises and aftermath of it, this book is the one indeed.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Obi N

    This book did a fantastic job covering the financial crisis while explaining the information in a way that was humorous and easy to digest.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Curtis Seven

    This is as good of a work as any to date in putting many of the events that led to The Great Recession into common parlance as any I've seen thus far. Blinder sometimes over simplifies in fact but not excessively and I recommend if you check it out from the library or what have you that you read at least the first half to get the events, actions, and rational of what transpired. The second half of the book essentially changes gears I think adding a thoughtful analysis of what has been done, has This is as good of a work as any to date in putting many of the events that led to The Great Recession into common parlance as any I've seen thus far. Blinder sometimes over simplifies in fact but not excessively and I recommend if you check it out from the library or what have you that you read at least the first half to get the events, actions, and rational of what transpired. The second half of the book essentially changes gears I think adding a thoughtful analysis of what has been done, has not been done, and perhaps most importantly what should be done to prevent another such catastrophe. He also does a credible job in covering the Eurozone Crisis without writing a whole other book but it is just a passing mention and as such not intended to be a deep analysis. The author acknowledges that this work is still an early work and that many more will follow in the years come. He is a Keynesian economist and as such some of the book may not set well with those of a right wing small government mindset. He's not entirely critical of the Bush administration however nor does he give Obama a pass for that matter but I think it accurate to say that he fairly well excoriates the GOP members in the House of Representatives as contributing little if anything to solving the crisis except under duress. I think one key thing here to keep in mind is the goal of the book which might well be summed up by outlining one of the things he finds sorely lacking in the records of both Bush and Obama. Accurately he points out that no one at any point did a very good job of explaining what was happening, why it happened, what caused it, or why the government did the things it did. Obama was much better than Bush in this regard in some respects but to this day the average person does not have the information to form an informed understanding of it all. Even if over simplified in some respects the author takes this issue on. If you don't understand the differences between QE1, QE2, TARP, and Obama's fiscal stimulas don't be embarrassed most folks really don't. This book will give you the basics needed to get your arms around the basics of what happened. I also think he does us credit by explaining some things that go against popular wisdom. For example most folks would see the immense amount of money used to stem the crisis as handouts to bankers and others who got us into trouble in the first place. In fact TARP addressed the banks and was not a give away. Initial estimates called for $700 billion but only about $500 billion was utilized and contrary to what some political pundits say it was not under Obama but Bush that $350 billion of it was mobilized. In addition in the end the total bill to tax payers while still a lot of money comes to perhaps $35 billion with the rest repaid. People get Obama's economic stimulas mixed up with TARP when in fact the later was more a creation of the Bush Treasury under Paulson that was then handed over mid stream to his successor. Obama also essentially bailed out an important sector of the economy but it wasn't the financial it was automotive. One important point that he comes back to again and again is the extremely poor job both administrations have done in handling the foreclosures of single family homes. While roughly $1.5 trillan was appropriated for the banks and an infusion into the economy no appreciable measures were taken to keep people in their homes. It was after all a housing bubble that burst which then caused a bond bubble to burst then leading to the collapse of several highly leveraged investment banks that created the mess in the first place. The author suggests that for a price tag of around $200 billion over 1 million homes could have been saved or less than 1/7th of what was spent in direct government appropriation. This issue as of the publishing of the book has not yet played out some six years latter largely because of politics. The Tea Party and conservative members of Congress blocked it. I think people are likely still going to scratch their heads as to how over 700 banks got themselves into so many bad loans. Then those loans where repackaged. Then they were insured against default often by people who did not even own them. This is oversimplified as well and it just begins to describe the vast complicated structure of financial instruments that are thought to have represented something in the order of $500 trillion dollars of underlying assets. The thing is the assets were far smaller than do to a seemingly never ending line of financial instruments that were created based on them. Anyways I won't delve any further but if you aren't totally sure what it was all about I do recommend this book as it will lift the blinders to a considerable degree for the average person :)

  13. 5 out of 5

    Brett

    This is a good, even-handed synopsis of the financial crisis of 2007-2008 and the political response that occurred in the years that followed. I am deeply interested in this topic and followed the events of the crisis very closely as they happened. After the Music Stopped doesn't bring a whole lot of new insight into the crisis, but it covers a lot of ground in a relatively clear and factually accurate manner. Blinder is an establishment type of guy. He served on the Federal Open Market Committee This is a good, even-handed synopsis of the financial crisis of 2007-2008 and the political response that occurred in the years that followed. I am deeply interested in this topic and followed the events of the crisis very closely as they happened. After the Music Stopped doesn't bring a whole lot of new insight into the crisis, but it covers a lot of ground in a relatively clear and factually accurate manner. Blinder is an establishment type of guy. He served on the Federal Open Market Committee of the Fed, and was an economic advisor to Bill Clinton. His sympathies are vaguely to the left of center, but he treats both Republican and Democratic policymakers with respect throughout the book. If anything, he is perhaps too deferential. His writing style is generally pretty plain, though writing an exciting description of a Collateralized Debt Obligation may not be possible even for the most talented of writers. All things considered, the book moves along pretty quickly while also managing to be thorough. It covers the causes of the crisis, the failure of various financial services institutions, TARP, responses within the Fed, the economic stimulus bill, and finally Dodd-Frank. In each case, we get a pretty good description of what was happening, why policymakers made the choices they did, and some thoughts about whether these policy solutions are likely to be effective over the long term. In terms of a one-stop primer on this monumentally important event in recent history that is accessible to the lay person, I doubt you are likely to find anything better.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ed

    Well as they all do it says: if you are to read just one book on the financial crisis, this is it. Except it isn't. I think Gillian Tett's Fools Gold is the one. But hey given it probably messed up your life maybe you should read more than one on this topic. Anyone the author is the consumate insider and writes well about how it all came to be and what it felt like trying to stop the world falling over the cliff back to the 1930s. The unlikely heroes of this book are George W Bush (though he als Well as they all do it says: if you are to read just one book on the financial crisis, this is it. Except it isn't. I think Gillian Tett's Fools Gold is the one. But hey given it probably messed up your life maybe you should read more than one on this topic. Anyone the author is the consumate insider and writes well about how it all came to be and what it felt like trying to stop the world falling over the cliff back to the 1930s. The unlikely heroes of this book are George W Bush (though he also helped cause the problem) and Barack Obama for both of them coldly doing what was needed, who kept their heads when all about were losing theirs and who also collaborated to do what needed to be done. Neither has got any real credit for this; so let me say thanks guys, a return to 1932 would not have been pretty.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Niral

    I've always appreciated writing that successfully explains complex issues in digestible ways without dumbing things down. Not only does this book do that, but with its blend of wry humor and outright snark the author kept it fun and surprisingly riveting along the way. Things can get overly wonky and dry real fast when discussing monetary policy, but somehow this book managed to be a page-turner (by and large). Although I don't think I came away with a perfect understanding of the issues after a I've always appreciated writing that successfully explains complex issues in digestible ways without dumbing things down. Not only does this book do that, but with its blend of wry humor and outright snark the author kept it fun and surprisingly riveting along the way. Things can get overly wonky and dry real fast when discussing monetary policy, but somehow this book managed to be a page-turner (by and large). Although I don't think I came away with a perfect understanding of the issues after a single read, I did come away feeling as if this book was thorough enough to answer most of my questions about the financial crisis (and the response) if I put in the time to absorb it all.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Abby

    A deeply comprehensive and yet very readable account of the events leading to, during, and following the global financial crisis of 2007-2009. During my daily work, I encounter all of these jargon-y phrases and bits of the narrative, but it was helpful to have all of the information brought together into a comprehensive story. An important book for us "normal" Americans (e.g., not policymakers or portfolio managers), who are still reeling from the effects of the crisis.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    Nothing new or revelatory in here if you've followed the crisis commentary from the beginning, but if not, this is a very comprehensive and somewhat unbiased story. Sometimes it gets too deep in the weeds and sometimes not enough, but it's really hard to write a book about the crisis and its aftermath. Believe me, I know...

  18. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    A necessary and clear description of what actually happened during the financial crisis that led to the Great Recession, and what the Obama administration did to avert an even greater disaster. With a lot of misinformation out there, this book is sorely needed.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy Stock

    I was less impressed with this work overall. It is a detailed account, no doubt, but I just felt the writing to be a bit dry and uninspiring.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lizzie

    The is the most accessible narrative I have yet to read about the 2008 crisis and it's after effects. Blinder has a nice rhythm of slow explanation with lots of repetition, side boxes with quick lessons on the fundamentals, humor, and a clear history of the timeline and players. He's best in the first 2/3 with his dissection of the mortgage and bond bubbles, the lack of regulation and greed that set the stage, and a tick tock of the crisis and actions taken to stem the flow. The end wanders thro The is the most accessible narrative I have yet to read about the 2008 crisis and it's after effects. Blinder has a nice rhythm of slow explanation with lots of repetition, side boxes with quick lessons on the fundamentals, humor, and a clear history of the timeline and players. He's best in the first 2/3 with his dissection of the mortgage and bond bubbles, the lack of regulation and greed that set the stage, and a tick tock of the crisis and actions taken to stem the flow. The end wanders through the eurozone crisis, next steps for the Fed, and takeaways for policy makers that are noteworthy but not nearly as compelling as his analysis of the crisis. Blinder reveals himself to be a Democrat, is quick to point out the partisan or personal interests of various players who weighed in on the crisis, and generally has (mostly) blame and (a bit of) credit for all ends of the spectrum, from Democratic and Republican appointees to libertarians and democratic socialists and those in between. I personally have many feelings about this crisis and the utter lack of any real accountability for its many architects, and Blinder helped lead me through that by acknowledging the bad behavior, setting it in context, and moving on. Blinder also has a rare sympathy for the difficulties inherent in policy making and avoids cheap shots, restraining himself to critiques of what could have been done differently given the political constraints and knowledge available at the time. People neck deep and sinking deeper in this mess condescended to the American people by telling them they were not smart enough to understand the financial system and thus must remain captives to the over-payed fools who built the mess in the first place. That's a lie, and Blinder's patient and illuminating lesson on what happened reveals it for what it is- the excuse of crooks and gamblers who know the party would end if anyone could see what was happening inside the room, and with whose money. Blinder does a good job exploring the tension between actions that are best for economy as a whole and people's fundamental notions of fairness, which were violated by the entire experience.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ro

    A stellar analysis/explainer of the 2008 financial crisis and the surrounding chaos; its clear, concise, funny, and educational. The complex unraveling of the US financial system, and its connections with the housing bubble and the spread of derivatives trading, was explained very well; and there was also a lot of interesting commentary on lesser-known aspects of the crisis, such as the bonds bubble, and the dynamics during the acute phase of the crisis, such as the freezing up of the market in A stellar analysis/explainer of the 2008 financial crisis and the surrounding chaos; its clear, concise, funny, and educational. The complex unraveling of the US financial system, and its connections with the housing bubble and the spread of derivatives trading, was explained very well; and there was also a lot of interesting commentary on lesser-known aspects of the crisis, such as the bonds bubble, and the dynamics during the acute phase of the crisis, such as the freezing up of the market in commercial paper and short-term lending, and the cataclysmic impact this would have on the economy if it wasn't dealt with. And all this is explained and analyzed in a very engaging manner, and indeed sometimes the book became an outright page-turner. The only negative to this book is the somewhat uninspired political arguments, which are largely centrist and look to preserve status-quo capitalism, but that should be unexpected given the author's background. And this is easily overlooked given how excellent the technical diagnosis of finance and crisis is. Overall an excellent book, accessible to everybody, including lay people like me who have some general understanding about economics and finance, but haven't done any deep-dive readings on the financial crisis.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Charlie Daniel

    Blinder writes conversationally; the book reads smoothly. He does a pretty good job of explaining the crisis itself, but his description of the policy solutions to the crisis is where this book shines. He's not afraid to express his views (I would say to a bit of a fault). He seems to blame partisanship on conservatives, which regardless of whether that assertion is true, doesn't add to his central argument. A good way to read this book would be to read directly after The Big Short - Michael Lewi Blinder writes conversationally; the book reads smoothly. He does a pretty good job of explaining the crisis itself, but his description of the policy solutions to the crisis is where this book shines. He's not afraid to express his views (I would say to a bit of a fault). He seems to blame partisanship on conservatives, which regardless of whether that assertion is true, doesn't add to his central argument. A good way to read this book would be to read directly after The Big Short - Michael Lewis seems to lean economically conservative (quasi-libertarian?) where Blinder is solidly liberal. Their different perspectives offer two counter-narratives for the crisis, perhaps serving as indicators of its complexity/practical incomprehensibility.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Millie W

    A stunningly comprehensive yet accessible book on the financial crisis. Blinded excels at conveying the tremendous complexities that contributed to Great Recession without making you feel like you need a PhD in economics to understand it. That being said, there were parts of the book where I did get bogged down by the vast array of acronyms and financial instruments being discussed and I could have done with a recap before launching into the next chapter. This is definitely a book that demands c A stunningly comprehensive yet accessible book on the financial crisis. Blinded excels at conveying the tremendous complexities that contributed to Great Recession without making you feel like you need a PhD in economics to understand it. That being said, there were parts of the book where I did get bogged down by the vast array of acronyms and financial instruments being discussed and I could have done with a recap before launching into the next chapter. This is definitely a book that demands careful reading. Sometimes, especially in the discussion about the response to the crisis rather than its build up, his summary seemed too singular and neat for me to feel comfortable concluding it was the whole story. At the same time, I do not nearly have the expertise to dispute it!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lace Lofranco

    A great read to understand not just the events that led to the 2008 financial crisis and response thereafter but also the rationale behind them. Alan Blinder explains with great clarity the different levers the US Government, particularly the Fed, pulled in response to one of the greatest financial crisis in modern history – averting total financial meltdown but still coming out as one of the villains. If you want to understand monetary and fiscal policy in the face of financial Armageddon, this A great read to understand not just the events that led to the 2008 financial crisis and response thereafter but also the rationale behind them. Alan Blinder explains with great clarity the different levers the US Government, particularly the Fed, pulled in response to one of the greatest financial crisis in modern history – averting total financial meltdown but still coming out as one of the villains. If you want to understand monetary and fiscal policy in the face of financial Armageddon, this is a must-read.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kathy Nealen

    Difficult to understand explanation for the 2008 financial crisis and the follow up activity and sometimes inactivity that made the situation better or worse. He is even-handed with clear criticism and approval for actions taken by all parties regardless of political affiliation. The book is a little dated given the publishing date of 2013. His highly regarded Dodd Frank has not fared well after the 2016 election. I will try to read his most recent book more promptly.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Calley

    If you're looking for a book to explain the basics of how the financial crisis happened and why the government responded as it did, this is a decent read for the layperson. But having been written in 2012 or so, it's only presaging the implications of the financial crisis that are now much more clear. It's good but I'm not positive there aren't better books looking back at the debacle of that crisis and the management/mismanagement of the response.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Fran

    Blinder describes what led to the financial crisis, how key people in the Bush and Obama administrations and the Fed responded, legislation that resulted and the Europe crisis. Since the book was published in 2013 with an added chapter in 2014, there are no final conclusions on the responses not updates on the status of reform. Blinder describes complicated concepts very clearly. Highly recommend for those who want to refresh their memories or better understand what happened.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    Blinder describes what led to the financial crisis, how key people in the Bush and Obama administrations and the Fed responded, legislation that resulted and the Europe crisis. Since the book was published in 2013 with an added chapter in 2014, there are no final conclusions on the responses not updates on the status of reform. Blinder describes complicated concepts very clearly. Highly recommend for those who want to refresh their memories or better understand what happened.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    We all remember the financial meltdown. The American public and the world received confusing, often times contradictory and, to many of us in the American public, seemingly insane remedies the Federal Reserve had to fix the American financial system. It is easy to remember the notorious bonuses that corporate executives at AIG received when the company was bailed out with tax payer dollars while middle and working class Americans across the country were upside down on their mortages, or worse, i We all remember the financial meltdown. The American public and the world received confusing, often times contradictory and, to many of us in the American public, seemingly insane remedies the Federal Reserve had to fix the American financial system. It is easy to remember the notorious bonuses that corporate executives at AIG received when the company was bailed out with tax payer dollars while middle and working class Americans across the country were upside down on their mortages, or worse, in foreclosure. Everyone from our Facebook friends, to bloggers, to political talk shows, the “Occupy Wall Street” and “Tea Party” movements explained it in their own ways. But these explanations were inadequate because they often missed the bigger picture and why some of the most well respected economists in the world had choose to make financial decisions that seemed initially reward or cushion the blow to Wall Street bankers who made irresponsible choices. Blinder regrets“how little explanation the American people ever heard from their leaders, whether in or out of government” (8) and how much journalists could really explain the complexity of the financial crisis. After the Music Stopped is a lay person's guide to the financial crisis of 2007-2009 which carefully explains the economical context before the crash, the panic of 2008, the response of the United States government and why they made the decisions they did. The last section explains the effect those decisions had and the reverberations to the economy that we are still feeling today in 2016. Alan S. Blinder, Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University and former vice chairman of the Federal Reserves Board of Governors from 1994-1996, comes across as very informed on the subject and very patiently explains even basic financial terminology. Blinder divides the book very neatly into five parts which a mixture of explanation of the events of the crash and “In the beginning” of the crisis he identifies the biggest “villains” of the crisis: the housing price and bond bubbles, financial leverage handled without care, lack of regulation, financial complexity “run amok,” the impact of rating agencies overrating and crazy compensation systems built an intricate financial house of cards which came crumbling down when one of its main supporting props failed: when the house-price bubble burst. Due to the way in which the financial system had been operating, the interconnectedness of one economic disaster devastated other parts of the market when housing prices fell, subprime mortages went into default and affected the mortage backed securities which many investors around the world had purchased. These failures and/or near failures were from the highest rated financial firms in the world such as Bearn Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Wachovia, Citigroup, and Bank of America sent the whole system crashing down. Because so much of the financial system was built upon a number of these risky financial practices, it was a catastrophe that spread like wildfire from the Wall Street to Main Street. Alongside the lengthy explanation of the crisis, Blinder argues for more regulation in the markets, greater transparency and greater explanation from public leaders about why certain polices are enacted. Blinder regrets that public office holders did not take more time to explain the actions they did, and tries to place the decisions within the context of American politics at the time. One of the main backlashes to the decisions the Fed made was what Blinder deemed “moral hazards,” that is, the perception that banks would be rewarded or bailed out by the American people for irresponsible banking actions they made. Blinder argues that the recession would be far longer and deeper if the actions of the Federal Reserve were not made. Throughout the book Blinder comes across as very informed and readers would appreciate the time he takes to explain many financial terms and systems that they would otherwise not know. At times Blinder is a little too colloquial in his writing style for my tastes, using common catch phrases and sometimes bashing individuals or institutions in a way that takes away from the seriousness of the topic. Despite these minor disagreements about is style, After the Music Stopped is an excellent resource for anyone who is interested what happened during the financial crisis. If knowledge is power, I hope that readers harness this power to educate others about the crisis and push for some of the reforms which Blinder calls for such as greater regulation on Wall Street. Thanks to Blinder, I am convinced that regulation can be done responsibly to allow for economic growth and responsible banking practices. But before these regulations can be enacted, I believe there must be a greater understanding of the financial crisis and why the government acted the way it did and its impact on the economy. TL; DR: It is a great explanation of the financial crisis of 2007-2009 written for non-specialists. Blinder's writing style is sometimes a little too colloquial for my tastes, but the information is excellent and reputable.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jeannie Hardeman

    A very detailed account of causes of the crisis, and how it was (or sometimes was not) dealt with. Definitely worth reading, though some parts are quite long and dense unless you're really into the details of economic policy.

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