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The $13 Trillion Question

by David Wessel

What is the best way for the U.S. Treasury to finance the federal government's huge debt?Everyone talks about the size of the national debt: now at $13 trillion and climbing. Few talk about how the Treasury does the borrowing, even though it is one of the world's largest borrowers. Yet everyone from bond traders to the home-buying public is affected by the Treasury's decisions about whether to borrow short or long term and what types of bonds to sell to investors.In The $13 Trillion Question, Harvard's Robin Greenwood, Sam Hanson, Joshua Rudolph, and Larry Summers argue that the Treasury could save taxpayers money and help the economy by borrowing more short term and less long term. They also argue that the Treasury and the Federal Reserve made a huge mistake in recent years by rowing in opposite directions: while the Fed was buying long-term bonds to push investors into other assets, the Treasury was doing the opposite--selling investors more long-term bonds. The Hoover Institution's John Cochrane joins the discussion by suggesting a series of new and innovative ways for Treasury to finance the debt.Each chapter of The $13 Trillion Question includes responses from a variety of public and private sector experts on how the Treasury does its borrowing. Larry Summers offers concluding comments with a call for the policy community to pay greater attention to debt management. "Debt management is too important to leave to the debt managers," he says.

The $13 Trillion Question: How America Manages its Debt

by David Wessel

The underexamined art and science of managing the federal government's huge debt. Everyone talks about the size of the U. S. national debt, now at $13 trillion and climbing, but few talk about how the U. S. Treasury does the borrowing-even though it is one of the world's largest borrowers. Everyone from bond traders to the home-buying public is affected by the Treasury's decisions about whether to borrow short or long term and what types of bonds to sell to investors. What is the best way for the Treasury to finance the government's huge debt? Harvard's Robin Greenwood, Sam Hanson, Joshua Rudolph, and Larry Summers argue that the Treasury could save taxpayers money and help the economy by borrowing more short term and less long term. They also argue that the Treasury and the Federal Reservemade a huge mistake in recent years by rowing in opposite directions: while the Fed was buying long-term bonds to push investors into other assets, the Treasury was doing the opposite-selling investors more long-term bonds. This book includes responses from a variety of public and private sector experts on how the Treasury does its borrowing, some of whom have criticized the way the Treasury has been managing its borrowing.

Central Banking after the Great Recession

by David Wessel

The global financial crisis is largely behind us, but the challenges it poses to the future stability of the world's economic system affects everyone from American families to Main Street businesses to Wall Street financial powerhouses. It has provoked controversy over the best way to reduce the risk of a repeat of what proved to be the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. To describe those challenges-and the lessons learned-the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy at Brookings turned to frontline policymakers and some of their most prominent critics. Central Banking after the Great Recession contains the resulting research, leading off with a telling interview between Ben Bernanke, then in his final weeks as Federal Reserve chairman, and Liaquat Ahamed, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Lords of Finance. Insightful chapters by John Williams of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank, Paul Tucker of Harvard University, and Donald Kohn of Brookings discuss unconventional monetary policy, financial regulation, the impact of the crisis on the independence of the Federal Reserve. Each chapter is followed by a lively debate.Contents1. Introduction2. A Conversation with Ben Bernanke3. Monetary Policy When Rates Hit Zero: Putting Theory into Practice4. Regulatory Reform: What'a Done? What Isn't?5. Federal Reserve Independence after the Financial Crisis: Should We Be Worried?

Central Banking after the Great Recession: Lessons Learned, Challenges Ahead

by David Wessel

The global financial crisis is largely behind us, but the challenges it poses to the future stability of the world's economic system affects everyone from American families to Main Street businesses to Wall Street financial powerhouses. It has provoked controversy over the best way to reduce the risk of a repeat of what proved to be the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. To describe those challenges #151;and the lessons learned #151;the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy at Brookings turned to frontline policymakers and some of their most prominent critics. Central Banking after the Great Recession contains the resulting research, leading off with a telling interview between Ben Bernanke, then in his final weeks as Federal Reserve chairman, and Liaquat Ahamed, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Lords of Finance. Insightful chapters by John Williams of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank, Paul Tucker of Harvard University, and Donald Kohn of Brookings discuss unconventional monetary policy, financial regulation, the impact of the crisis on the independence of the Federal Reserve. Each chapter is followed by a lively debate.

In Fed We Trust: Ben Bernanke's War on The Great Panic

by David Wessel

"Whatever it takes. " That was Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's vow as the worst financial panic in more than fifty years gripped the world and he struggled to avoid the once unthinkable: a repeat of the Great Depression. Brilliant but temperamentally cautious, Bernanke researched and wrote about the causes of the Depression during his career as an academic. Then when thrust into a role as one of the most important people in the world, he was compelled to boldness by circumstances he never anticipated. The president of the United States can respond instantly to a missile attack with America's military might, but he cannot respond to a financial crisis with real money unless Congress acts. The Fed chairman can. Bernanke did. Under his leadership the Fed spearheaded the biggest government intervention in more than half a century and effectively became the fourth branch of government, with no direct accountability to the nation's voters. Believing that the economic catastrophe of the 1930s was largely the fault of a sluggish and wrongheaded Federal Reserve, Bernanke was determined not to repeat that epic mistake. In this penetrating look inside the most powerful economic institution in the world, David Wessel illuminates its opaque and undemocratic inner workings, while revealing how the Bernanke Fed led the desperate effort to prevent the world's financial engine from grinding to a halt. In piecing together the fullest, most authoritative, and alarming picture yet of this decisive moment in our nation's history, In Fed We Trust answers the most critical questions. Among them: What did Bernanke and his team at the Fed know--and what took them by surprise? Which of their actions stretched--or even ripped through--the Fed's legal authority? Which chilling numbers and indicators made them feel they had no choice? What were they thinking at pivotal moments during the race to sell Bear Stearns, the unsuccessful quest to save Lehman Brothers, and the virtual nationalization of AIG, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac? What were they saying to one another when, as Bernanke put it to Wessel: "We came very close to Depression 2. 0"? How well did Bernanke, former treasury secretary Hank Paulson, and then New York Fed president Tim Geithner perform under intense pressure? How did the crisis prompt a reappraisal of the once-impregnable reputation of Alan Greenspan? In Fed We Trust is a breathtaking and singularly perceptive look at a historic episode in American and global economic history.

Red Ink: Inside the High-stakes Politics of the Federal Budget

by David Wessel

David Wessel, the Pulitzer-Prize-winning reporter, columnist, and bestselling author of In Fed We Trust, dissects a topic--the federal budget--that is fiercely debated today in the halls of Congress and the media, and yet is misunderstood by the American public. In a sweeping narrative about the people and the politics behind the budget, Wessel looks at the 2011 fiscal year (which ended September 30) to see where all the money was actually spent, and why the budget process has grown wildly out of control. Through the eyes of key people--Jacob Lew, White House director of the Office of Management and Budget; Douglas Elmendorf, director of the Congressional Budget Office; Blackstone founder and former Commerce Secretary Pete Peterson; and more--Wessel gives readers an inside look at the making of our unsustainable budget.

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