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Bailout: An Inside Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street

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Bailout: An Inside Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street Neil Barofsky Free Press, 2012

When asked "what would you do if you were made a dictator?," the eminent Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises replied "I would resign," a response fully in keeping with his libertarian bent. We might well think that our answer would be the same if asked that question. But before resigning, a reluctant dictator-designate would do well to issue at least one edict: that every intelligent member of the society read Neil Barofsky's Bailout. If there is any one book that lucidly and engagingly tells the story of the U.S. government's response to the recent economic crisis and at the same time reveals the depths of American political and financial venality, it is Bailout.

Without being a "Washington insider," Barofsky has been ideally situated to give an inside account of the massive bailout that began with the enactment of TARP (the "Troubled Asset Relief Program") in late 2008. He was named by President George W. Bush, and confirmed by the U. S. Senate, to be the "Special Inspector General of TARP" (thus, the acronym SIGTARP), and continued in that capacity under President Barack Obama. In all, he served as the inspector general from December 15, 2008 to March 31, 2011. While formally on the organization chart of the U.S. Treasury Department, Barofsky was intended to be, and was, an independent watchdog. As the book makes clear, his independence consisted of a tenacious refusal to be anyone's lapdog. Before he was appointed, he was a tough-minded prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York, among other things going after the vicious narco-terrorist FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces) cartel in Colombia before proceeding to a major accounting fraud prosecution. One...