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A Crisis Wasted: Barack Obama's Defining Decisions

A Crisis Wasted: Barack Obama's Defining Decisions

by Reed Hundt
A Crisis Wasted: Barack Obama's Defining Decisions

A Crisis Wasted: Barack Obama's Defining Decisions

by Reed Hundt


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“The blow by blow story of a president and his team wasting the ‘opportunity’ of the Great Recession to change the fundamentals of the economy.” —Steven Brill, New York Times–bestselling author
This book is the compelling story of President Obama’s domestic policy decisions made between September 2008 and his inauguration on January 20, 2009. Barack Obama determined the fate of his presidency before he took office. His momentous decisions led to Donald Trump, for Obama the worst person imaginable, taking his place eight years later.
This book describes these decisions and discusses how the results could have been different. Based on dozens of interviews with actors in the Obama transition, as well as the author’s personal observations, this book provides unique commentary of those defining decisions of winter 2008–2009.
A decade later, the ramifications of the Great Recession and the role of government in addressing the crisis animate the ideological battle between progressivism and neoliberalism in the Democratic Party and the radical direction of the Republican Party. As many seek the presidency in the November 2020 election, all candidates and of course the eventual winner will face decisions that may be as critical and difficult as those confronted by Barack Obama. This book aims to provide the guidance of history.
“A powerfully lucid, compelling and surprising achievement . . . makes a subtle but irresistible argument that, given the conservative undertow of American politics, liberals and progressives who are serious about change can’t just wing it but must prepare detailed economic policy analyses and prescriptions long in advance of taking power.” —Congressman Jamie Raskin, Representative from Maryland’s 8th District

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780795353383
Publisher: RosettaBooks
Publication date: 11/30/2021
Pages: 398
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Reed Hundt was a member of the transition teams for the Clinton and Obama presidencies. He was the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission in 1993–97. He has written four books, taught at Yale College, Law School, and School of Management, practiced law in California and Washington, DC, started for-profit and non-profit firms, served as a board member for numerous technology and communications firms, and raised a family with his wife Betsy in Chevy Chase, Maryland. He is the author of You Say You Want a Revolutionand In China’s Shadow.

Table of Contents

Timeline of Events xi

Cast of Characters xix

Preface xxv

Introduction 1

All Decided Beforehand 3

What Do I Know? 7

Podesta Began Transition Planning in Summer 13

The End Came from the Beginning 15

1 To Chicago in the Snow 23

2 As Obama Entered Congress, The Economy Began to Crack 33

The Bear Bailout Foretold the Future 39

The Government Prepared to Save the GSEs 41

Lehman Became Central Concern 43

3 As 2008 Unfolded, Obama Changed His Team and Themes 49

Summer 2008: Summers Began to Advise Obama 52

September: Stimulus Took Shape 54

4 Lehman Changed Everything 59

5 Paulson Snared Obama 67

Paulson Produced Three Pages 68

McCain Blew His Chance 72

Paulson Got What He Wanted 77

6 Obama Picked His People and Thus His Policies 83

Obama Selected His Court from a Short List 90

Before Thanksgiving, Obama Outlined His Economic Recovery Plan 93

People Choices Are Policy Choices 99

7 The Courtiers Gathered 103

The Three T's Prescribed 109

Interlude 1: Pitching an Idea 119

8 December's Dark News 125

"Getting Rahm's Head Around the Situation" 130

Romer, Summers Agreed 131

9 The Pre-Meeting Memorandum 141

TARP Not Amended 149

10 A Three-Meeting Day 153

No Cake for Carol 154

No Moonshot 160

Post-Meeting Downsized, Hurried Stimulus 166

Interlude 2: Composing the Stimulus 173

11 "A Rookie Mistake" 175

"Political Malpractice" 183

Could Have Beens 185

What Was Really Happening in the Economy 187

Possible Moonshots 191

12 "No Greater Exasperation Than Housing" 197

McCain and Obama Proposed Competing Housing Fixes in October 202

Obama's Advisers Developed, Their Own Views 204

Treasury Proceeded, to HAMP, Triggered the Tea Party 208

Allison's Big Idea 214

HUD Has a View 217

Cramdown Sabotaged 219

The Treasury Department Prioritized Bank Stabilization 227

Treasury Picked Option Two 231

Interlude 3: "I Think That Went Well" 245

13 "Making Healthcare Reform Job One" 251

Obama Chose Daschle and Daschle's Dream 254

Daschle's Victory 262

Daschle's Downfall 267

Healthcare Reform as a Strategic Decision 270

14 "The Moment When Our Planet Began to Heal" 275

From Rio to the White House 277

Cap-and-Trade Versus Carbon Tax 279

Clean Energy Got Stimulated 286

Cap-and-Trade Remained the Goal 287

Waxman Entered the Scene 289

The House Versus the Senate 294

15 A Tale of Two Inaugural Addresses 299

Obama Picked a Leadership Style 301

Roosevelt Took Command 304

Obama Decided Against Boldness 308

Similar Measures, Different Methods 310

Epilogue 317

Acknowledgments 339

Bibligraphy 341

Index 353

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