Book Bits | 17 January 2015

Hidden in Plain Sight: What Really Caused the World’s Worst Financial Crisis and Why It Could Happen Again
by Peter J. Wallison
Essay by author via San Diego Union-Tribune
If there were ever any doubt that the lesson of the financial crisis has not been learned, it was dispelled last month, when the six federal regulatory agencies charged by the Dodd-Frank Act with defining the terms of a high-quality prime mortgage backed away from the idea. Instead, they issued a final rule that equates a prime mortgage with a loan that has no minimum down payment and no required minimum credit score.

Criminal Capital: How the Finance Industry Facilitates Crime
by Stephen Platt
Summary via publisher (Palgrave Macmillan)
In the first book to expose the role played by the international financial services industry in facilitating crime and laundering criminal property, one of the world’s leading anti-financial crime specialists scrutinises the vulnerability of banks, brokerages, trust companies, and investment funds to criminal abuse. Examining the role of the traditional powerhouse financial centres as well as offshore centres and rapidly emerging international financial centres in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, this highly informative book challenges the reader to consider whether following the 2008 crisis, sufficient steps have been taken to address toxic behaviours in financial services; or whether radical reform is needed.

America’s Bitter Pill: Money, Politics, Back-Room Deals, and the Fight to Fix Our Broken Healthcare System
by Steven Brill
Review via The Economist
It is easy to feel depressed reading Steven Brill’s new book, “America’s Bitter Pill”, which uses a series of narratives to explain the past few years of health policy in America. The central tale follows the Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as Obamacare, from inception to implementation. One might think that the passage of the biggest liberal achievement since Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” would prove an uplifting story. But this is mostly an account of backroom deals, broken promises and bungling government—not to mention bitter partisanship.

Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup
by Andrew Zimbalist
Summary via publisher (Brookings Institution Press)
The numbers are staggering: China spent $40 billion to host the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing and Russia spent $50 billion for the 2014 Sochi Winter Games. Brazil’s total expenditures are thought to have been as much as $20 billion for the World Cup this summer and Qatar, which will be the site of the 2022 World Cup, is estimating that it will spend $200 billion. How did we get here? And is it worth it? Those are among the questions noted sports economist Andrew Zimbalist answers in Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup. Both the Olympics and the World Cup are touted as major economic boons for the countries that host them, and the competition is fierce to win hosting rights… Zimbalist finds no net economic gains for the countries that have played host to the Olympics or the World Cup. While the wealthy may profit, those in the middle and lower income brackets do not, and Zimbalist predicts more outbursts of political anger like that seen in Brazil surrounding the 2014 World Cup.

Diplomacy on Ice: Energy and the Environment in the Arctic and Antarctic
Ed. by Rebecca H Pincus, et al.
Summary via publisher (Yale University Press)
As the race for resources in distant parts of the planet gathers momentum, most discussion has centered on the potential for conflict, environmental destruction, and upheaval from climate change. This important book shifts the conversation about the Arctic and Antarctic from conflict to cooperation. A multidisciplinary roster of experts provides fresh views of the polar regions, focusing on diplomacy and the potential for cooperative international decision-making. Collectively the contributors illustrate the breadth of issues that complicate governance in the Arctic and Antarctic, as well as parallels and differences between the politics of the two poles.

Picture Your Prosperity: Smart Money Moves to Turn Your Vision into Reality
by Ellen Rogin and Lisa Kueng
Review via US News & World Report
As a financial advisor for the past 20 years, Ellen Rogin has noticed there are two sides to financial planning: the logical side, focused on tasks such as making investment decisions and developing a spending plan, and then the more emotional aspect of what really motivates people to get on top of their finances. “There’s a lot that goes into someone being financially successful, and we have to have a broader conversation about people’s beliefs around money,” she says.
To tackle that subjective aspect of financial planning, Rogin and her co-author Lisa Kueng, also a financial services professional, wrote “Picture Your Prosperity: Smart Money Moves to Turn Your Vision into Reality,” which will be released this month. In the book​, the two money experts encourage readers to use evocative images to help them create and stick to their long term financial goals.