"Reckless Endangerment," the new book by Gretchen Morgenson, Pulitzer Prize-winning business columnist of The New York Times, and Josh Rosner, Wall Street insider, exposes how the watchdogs who were supposed to protect the country from financial harm were actually complicit in the actions that finally wrecked our economy. Drawing on previously untapped sources and building on original research from Rosner--who himself raised early warnings with the public and investors, and kept detailed records--Morgenson connects the dots that led to this fiasco.
This disaster was great, and its impact far-reaching. Now, more than four years after the cracks in the financial foundation could no longer be ignored, most people remain bewildered about the causes of the steepest economic downturn since the Great Depression. And they wonder why we are still mired in it, as we are forced to watch the maddening aftermath: hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars being spent to rescue some of the very institutions that drove the country into the ditch!
The American people realize they've been robbed. They're just not sure by whom, or exactly how it could have happened. Trillions of dollars in investments have been lost around the world, millions of Americans have been jettisoned from their homes with millions more likely to follow, and fourteen million U.S. workers are now without jobs, with very very few good jobs anywhere on the horizon.
This was a crisis that crept up, building almost imperceptibly over the past two decades. More disturbing, it was the result of actions taken by people at the height of power in both the public and the private sectors -- people who continue, even now, to hold sway in the corridors of Washington and Wall Street.
This is a story of what happens when unfettered risk taking, with an eye to huge personal paydays, gains the upper hand in corporate executive suites and on Wall Street trading floors. It is a story of the consequences of regulators who are captured by the institutions they are charged with regulating. Finally it is a story of what happens when political whores on The Hill are persuaded by bankster lobbyists with ulterior motives that every living, breathing citizen should own a home.
Bottom line: The American economy was wrecked by a crowd of self-interested, politically influential, and arrogant people who have not yet been held accountable for their actions. Yes, there was a courageous and civically minded group of people who tried to warn of the impending crisis, but they were overrun and ignored by their celebrated adversaries.
Large investment firms played a prominent role in this debacle. And many who contributed to the mess are still in positions of power or have risen to even higher ranks. While some architects of the crisis may no longer command center stage, they remain respected members of the business or regulatory community.
The failure to hold central figures accountable for their actions sets a dangerous precedent. And a system where perpetrators of such a colossal crime are allowed to slip quietly from the scene cannot be tolerated.
Analyzing the financial crisis, its origins and its instigators, requires identifying powerful participants who would rather not be named. It requires an unrelenting search for the facts, and an ability to speak truth to power. Investigating the origins of the financial crisis means shedding light on exceedingly dark corners in Washington and on Wall Street players who desperately want to avoid being exposed. Hidden in these shadows are people, places, and incidents that can help us understand the nature of this disaster so that we can keep anything like it from happening again.