Broken Bargain: Bankers, Bailouts, and the Struggle to Tame Wall Street

In This Review

Broken Bargain: Bankers, Bailouts, and the Struggle to Tame Wall Street
By Kathleen Day
Yale University Press, 2019
440 pp.

Day tells the story of U.S. banking since the beginning of the American republic, emphasizing the bargain that she says was struck after the banking crisis of 1930–33. Under that arrangement, the federal government provided deposit insurance (thereby limiting bank runs), and in exchange, the banks accepted heavy regulation. In romping fashion, Day recounts the troubling story of the last 40 years, during which a combination of new legislation and deregulation broke that bargain. In large part thanks to lobbying and campaign contributions by financial firms, Congress rolled back regulations. Meanwhile, regulators, such as Robert Rubin, U.S. treasury secretary during the Clinton administration, and Alan Greenspan, a longtime chair of the Federal Reserve, embraced a philosophy of deregulation and supported, and even encouraged, the rollbacks. Some regulators, bankers, state government officials, and even legislators did warn of the risks, but those in power did not heed them.

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