This is the book for people who can't understand how the financial pyramid supporting the greatest city in the world suddenly crumbled. In the first place, it wasn't sudden. Veteran New York limes reporter Ferretti explains in clear layman's language the disastrous budgetary fakery--dating back to Robert Wagner, escalated by John Lindsay--which finally collapsed on the head of a pathetic Abe Beame. Every year for more than a decade the budget was ""balanced"" with mirrors--short-term loans floated against speculative future revenues. It's a dismal story which damns everyone: mayors, controllers, budget directors, governors, the municipal unions. To say nothing of William Simon, chief spokesman for the ""punitive"" approach to New York's financial troubles and also, during his tenure on Lindsay's financial advisory board, a great advocate of those same calamitous short-term borrowing policies. Ferretti takes it month by month between November '74 and November '75; he pins Beame's loss of credibility and the resultant cynicism of investors on the spurious ""layoffs"" repeatedly announced but somehow never implemented until the advent of Big Mac and the Emergency Control Board. Make no mistake about it, those agencies have the city and its mayor by the short hairs. Ferretti does not blame New York's welfare rolls, municipal hospitals, or tuition-free universities: ""They should have been applauded."" He blames cynical pols, ""funny bookkeeping,"" the banks--which did very well. And he says flat out that in the end the fate of New York was actually ""legalized default,"" with the people--who else.?--the big losers.