An astute and wide-ranging assessment of an urgent economic problem.



A writer offers an analysis of Fannie Mae’s contribution to the 2008 mortgage crisis coupled with recommended reforms. 

There’s been no shortage of ink spilled on anatomizing the economic catastrophe of 2008, including specific analyses of the mortgage debt crisis. But there has been a surprising deficit of attention to the role played by Fannie Mae, the focus of Mukherjee’s debut book. He argues that years of imprudently weak regulation led to the growth of Fannie Mae into “an unrestricted mortgage behemoth” with more than $3 trillion in assets. Fannie Mae was transformed over time—partly as a result of its winning a territorial war with the Department of Housing and Urban Development—into a government-sponsored entity with an implicit federal guarantee of its strategic bets, in effect creating an unstable model within which private reward and risk were encouraged by the promise of taxpayers’ bearing the burden of failure. At the heart of the problem was Fannie Mae’s tremendously profitable guaranty arm, which allowed it to guarantee homeowner mortgages like an insurance provider in exchange for a fee. But when a deluge of home foreclosures compelled it to dole out massive payouts, Fannie Mae was egregiously short of funds since it had already spent its reserves on “doomed” bonds. The author furnishes a brief but impressively thorough history of Fannie Mae as well as an excellent primer on the housing market’s basic structure. In addition, he gives pragmatic but original solutions to the organization’s troubles, starting with a reduction of liability to taxpayers by winding down its portfolio. He also advocates the creation of a private servicer enterprise, which “would have the sole purpose of servicing the 120-day delinquent mortgages” from the Government Sponsored Enterprise. Mukherjee’s analysis is astonishingly concise given its breadth and, despite the technicality of the subject, remarkably accessible. He also manages to avoid even a whiff of partisan allegiance—his perspective is fashioned out of rigorous analysis versus political ideology. Finally, his suggestions for reforming current lending practices—especially those aimed at discriminatory practices—deserve a wide audience. 

An astute and wide-ranging assessment of an urgent economic problem.

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2018


Page Count: 89

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

Did you like this book?

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

Did you like this book?