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New Release (October 2021)
Amazon

Reviews


“In Only the Rich Can Play, David Wessel masterfully makes policy wonkery into a riveting story. A cautionary tale of good intentions gone bad, it is a must read, from Wall Street to Main Street.” -Arthur C. Brooks, professor, Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Business School, and New York Times bestselling author

“David Wessel is a Washington treasure, and anything he writes is a must-read as far as I’m concerned. In Only the Rich Can Play David marries the depth of his understanding of economics with his years of experience as a Washington reporter and his skill at storytelling. He traces the origins of the Opportunity Zone Tax break from conception to birth and then shows how it actually working (or not) on the ground. This is both a great read and an important one because it shows those of us outside Washington how things really work there.”

– Bryan Burrough, co-author of Barbarians at the Gate and Forget the Alamo

“David Wessel has long been one of the keenest observers of the American economy. This book shows his remarkable ability to combine intellectual meat with compelling narrative. Many Silicon Valley moguls are politically clueless, but Sean Parker of Napster and Facebook managed to slip his real estate investment scheme -- Opportunity Zones -- into law, despite almost no support from traditional thought leaders. You should read this book if you want to understand how to get things done in Washington. You should read this book if you want to understand the most important new urban policy in a generation. You should read this book if you just want to be entertained by a terrific political yarn.”

- Edward Glaeser, Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics Harvard University

“Vegas, opulent parties, wine-filled dinners … not since the classic Showdown at Gucci Gulch has tax policy making been this much fun. But look beyond the vivid anecdotes and there’s an important and underappreciated story about a program that will cost the federal treasury billions while helping a fraction of the people Congress intended. Wessel weaves together on-the-ground reporting, the best data and evidence, and deep knowledge of the policy process to show how strong moral convictions, vast wealth, and a turbocharged media presence can run up against entrenched special interests and inadequate vetting. The result, as one interviewee says, is a missed opportunity indeed.”

- Tracy Gordon, The Urban Institute

“A fascinating and entertaining – albeit at times depressing and infuriating – story of how a major policy initiative came to be... a lesson in how social policy in America should not be made, but too often is, and an explanation of why the rich always seem to win.”

- Melissa Kearney, Neil Moskowitz Professor of Economics at the University of Maryland

"If you want to understand how the US has ended up with a tax code that on paper is progressive but in practice is so regressive that the very wealthy pay virtually no tax, Only the Rich Can Play is the place to start. In his wry style, Wessel uses the story of a tax provision dreamed up by a tech billionaire to show what happens when good intentions and arrogance collide with our tax-avoidance-industrial complex."

- Paul Romer, New York University, Nobel Laureate in Economics

“A must-read for anyone who wants to really understand how an idea can in time become a law—with the help of a large budget, skilled lobbying, and the support of a few key members of Congress. I thought I knew a bit about how Washington works, but I learned an enormous amount from David Wessel’s very carefully researched and extremely well written book.”

- David M. Rubenstein, cofounder and co-executive chairman of The Carlyle Group and author of How to Lead





A few pages quietly slipped into the 2017 tax cut law created an archipelago of 8,764 tax havens across the United States known as Opportunity Zones billed as a way to offer rich folks lucrative capital-gains tax breaks to put their money into left-behind communities. Illustrating how Washington really works in this new Gilded Age, Only the Rich Can Play traces the origins of OZs, as they’re known, from their progenitor, Sean Parker of Napster and Facebook fame, and the think tank he funded to design them, organize a bipartisan coalition to support them, and lobby them into law – with Sen. Tim Scott, the sole Black Republican in the Senate, playing a pivotal role both in Congress and in winning Donald Trump’s backing at a pivotal moment.

The book details the no-guardrails approach the Trump Treasury took to administering OZs and the choices (some good, some bad) that the nation’s governors made in designating the zones from the list of eligible census tracts. Only the Rich Can Plays describes the gold rush that was triggered when tax lawyers, accountants and real estate investors discovered the provision, and then turns to where the money went (a lot of it to places like prosperous downtown Portland, Oregon) and for what (often hotels, condos, self-storage facilities and luxury student-housing) and where it didn’t (places like Baltimore) – and highlights a few places (South LA and Erie, PA) where Opportunity Zones are doing what they were supposed to do.

Amazon

Reviews


“Should be a first port of call for American voters sadly misinformed about their federal budget…Wessel’s aim is to explain for a general audience the basics of the budget – where the money comes from and goes to – and to make the explanation interesting. He succeeds.”

–Financial Times

“Wessel…has an insider’s grasp of the players, issues and argot surrounding the budget. Yet he writes with an outsider’s eye, distilling his tale of the fiscal monster into about 150 pages of simple prose and a smattering of charts.”

–Businessweek

“[Wessel] is blessed with the ability to make the obscure and arcane comprehensible.”

–Canada Free Press

“When laid out in front of us in the clam and talented hand of Wessel, we begin to understand in more detail exactly what we’re deciding on, and that while it’s not going to be easy, fixing the deficit is entirely doable... If you’re interested that dialogue and in further education instead of soundbites and the pontification of pundits this election season, then this is certainly a book for you.”

–800 CEO Read

“In Red Ink David Wessel has accomplished two miracles: he has made a budget book interesting and he has deciphered the behavior of Washington for Americans beyond the Beltway. Nicely done.”

—Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office

“I wish every voter would read this book. It spells out in a clear, non-partisan way the realities of the deficit, how we got here, and the hard choices that lie ahead. The message is painful, but the book is not -- it is engaging, thoughtful, and a pleasure to read.”

—Christina D. Romer, former Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers and current professor of Economics at the University of California, Berkeley





David Wessel, the Pulitzer-Prize-winning reporter, columnist, and bestselling author of In Fed We Trust, dissects the federal budget: a topic that is fiercely debated today in the halls of Congress and the media, and yet is misunderstood by the American public.

A New York Times bestseller.


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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Amazon

Reviews


“...essential, lucid—and, it turns out, riveting—reading."
—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“...a tale that’s nothing short of hair-raising..reveals in scary detail how unprepared politicians and regulators truly were...”
—Paul M Barrett, The New York Times Book Review

“... so far the most entertaining and most readable book on the financial crisis.”
—Tyler Cowen, marginalrevolution.com

“...persuasively told and richly reported... It will win awards and inspire copycats.”
—BusinessWeek

"David Wessel brings his deep knowledge of the Federal Reserve and U.S. politics and economics to a topic that will be studied by historians for decades to come...No one can understand what happened and what did not happen without reading this book."
–Joseph E. Stiglitz, winner of the Nobel Prize in economics and author of Globalization and its Discontents





“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, offering a breathtaking and singularly perceptive look at a historic episode in American and global economic history.

 
 

Reviews


“...essential, lucid—and, it turns out, riveting—reading."
—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“...a tale that’s nothing short of hair-raising..reveals in scary detail how unprepared politicians and regulators truly were...”
—Paul M Barrett, The New York Times Book Review

“... so far the most entertaining and most readable book on the financial crisis.”
—Tyler Cowen, marginalrevolution.com

“...persuasively told and richly reported... It will win awards and inspire copycats.”
—BusinessWeek

"David Wessel brings his deep knowledge of the Federal Reserve and U.S. politics and economics to a topic that will be studied by historians for decades to come...No one can understand what happened and what did not happen without reading this book."
–Joseph E. Stiglitz, winner of the Nobel Prize in economics and author of Globalization and its Discontents





A  look at how the forces of technology, education and globalization have shaped, are shaping and will shape the living standards of the American middle class – with particular attention to lessons for our times from the history of electricity and of the spread of public high schools.

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Global Goliaths:

Multinational Corporations in the 21st Century Economy

Amazon

Globalization and multinational corporations have long seemed partners in the enterprise of economic growth. In recent years, however, the notion that all economies, both developed and developing, can prosper from globalization has been called into question and has fueled a populist backlash around the world against globalization and the corporations that made it possible.

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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. 

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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. . . .