The 1980s opened with the prime interest rate at an astonishing 21.5 percent, leading to a severe recession with unemployment reaching nearly 11 percent. Depression-like conditions befell the agricultural sector, a bubble burst in the energy sector, a rolling real estate recession swept the country, the entire thrift industry was badly insolvent and the major money center banks were loaded with third world debt. Some 3,000 bank and thrifts failed, including nine of Texas’ 10 largest, and Continental Illinois, which, at the time, was the 7thlargest bank in the nation. These severe conditions were not only handled without creating a panic, the economy actually embarked on the longest peacetime expansion in history. In Senseless Panic: How Washington Failed America, William M. Isaac, Chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) during the banking and S&L crises of the 1980s, details what was different about 2008’s meltdown that allowed the failure of a comparative handful of institutions to nearly shut down the world’s financial system. The book also tells the rousing story of Isaac’s time at the FDIC. With accessible and engaging prose, Isaac: Details the mistakes that led to the panic of 2008 and 2009 Demystifies the conditions America faced in 2008, and Provides a roadmap for avoiding similar shutdowns and panics in the future Senseless Panicis a provocative, quick-paced, and thoughtful analysis of what went wrong with the nation's banking system and a blunt indictment of United States policy.
Foreword. Acknowledgments. Introduction. Part One: No Calm Before the Storm. Chapter 1 Home Alone. Chapter 2 The Early Years (1978 –1981). Chapter 3 The Savings Bank and S&L Crises. Chapter 4 Penn Square Fails. Chapter 5 The Butcher Empire Collapses. Chapter 6 Deposit Insurance Reform/Tackling Wall Street. Chapter 7 Continental Illinois Topples. Chapter 8 Preparing to Leave. Chapter 9 Lessons Learned. Part Two: Here We Go Again. Chapter 10 Policy Mistakes—1989 through 2007. Chapter 11 The Subprime Mortgage Problem. Chapter 12 SEC and FASB Blunders. Chapter 13 Schizophrenic Failure Resolution. Chapter 14 The $700 Billion Bailout. Chapter 15 Never Again. Afterword. Authors' Notes on Sources. About the Authors. Index.
William M. Isaac is Chairman of LECG Global Financial Services and one of the world's foremost authorities on bank regulation. He served as chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corpor-ation (FDIC) during the banking and S&L crises of the 1980s, when some 3,000 banks and thrifts failed, including nine of the ten largest Texas banks as well as Continental Illinois, the nation's seventh largest bank. Isaac writes frequently for the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Forbes, the Washington Post, American Banker, and other leading publications; testifies before Congress; makes regular appearances on leading television and radio programs; and is a contributor to CNBC.
From 1980 through 1991, some 3,000 banks and thrifts failed, including many of the largest in the country. The failed banks and thrifts had $650 billion of assets (roughly $3.5 trillion in terms relative to today's banking system) and cost the FDIC fund more than $100 billion, and taxpayers nearly $150 billion. It was an extremely difficult period, but the public's confidence in the banking system held, and financial panic was averted. Contrast this result with the global financial panic that hit in the fall of 2008 and threatened to push the world into an economic depression. The economy was actually quite strong in 2007 and 2008, unlike 1980-1982, so why did we experience such different outcomes in the financial markets? In Senseless Panic, William Isaac, who headed the FDIC during the financial crisis of the 1980s, describes what was different about the 2008 crisis that allowed the failure of a comparative handful of institutions to nearly shut down the worldwide financial system. Isaac, one of the foremost authorities on banking regulation, explains how we were able to navigate the treacherous economic and banking waters in the 1980s without creating a financial panic and why we failed to contain the less serious problems in 2008 that nearly sank the financial system. He identifies the policy mistakes over the two decades from 1990 to 2008 that led to the crisis of 2008 and the bungling of the crisis by top government leaders, such as Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, which turned that crisis into a panic. Having lived through the banking and S&L crises of the 1980s, he examines the lessons we learned, and those we failed to learn, from that period and identifies the mistakes that led to what he calls the "Senseless Panic of 2008." It was a panic that would not have happened had our political leaders acquired even a passing knowledge of what happened during the 1980s and how we dealt with those enormous problems. Isaac shows how the banking and S&L crises of the 1980s were misunderstood by our political leaders, what wrong "fixes" were put into place during the 1990s, and how those actions led us directly into the banking crisis of 2008. In Senseless Panic, he demystifies the conditions we faced then and now, and provides a strong road map for the future.
Praise for Senseless Panic What we can do to prevent future meltdowns "Washington had better read this book. Bill Isaac is absolutely on target in his acute analysis of what he rightly calls the 'Senseless Panic of 2008.' He was at the center in preventing what could have been an even worse banking debacle back in the 1980s-but it didn't happen, thanks to his level-headed leadership. If Washington politicians ignore Isaac's insights, we will pay a fearful price." —Steve Forbes, Chief Executive Officer, Forbes, Inc. "Bill Isaac has dedicated his life to the public policy arena. He thinks straight, and he talks straight. Washington must read Senseless Panic to learn the lessons of the past and set the course for the future." —Lawrence Kudlow, host of CNBC's The Kudlow Report "Bill Isaac throws down the gauntlet to Bush, Paulson, Obama, and Geithner. Their fixes and bailouts, he argues persuasively, were wrongheaded and very expensive. Learn from past crises and prevent the next collapse, says this experienced and outspoken former bank regulator. Let the real debate within the establishment begin." —Ralph Nader, lawyer, author, and political activist "I would respectfully urge President Obama: Read this book. Emulate success. Spend time debriefing this real-world financial expert. What other effective bank regulator, besides Paul Volcker and Bill Isaac, do you know who fixed our broken financial system for two presidents-Carter and Reagan? Nothing speaks louder than success." —Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) "If our national leaders had listened to Bill Isaac over the past two decades, particularly when the crisis hit in 2008, we would have avoided the enormously costly financial meltdown. This book is must reading for students of financial history." —Dr. Arthur Laffer, Chairman, Laffer Associates "In the 2008 debate over TARP, Bill Isaac came to Washington and presented over 200 members of Congress with an alternative to the government bailout. His arguments helped convince a skeptical House to stunningly reject and vote down the bailout proposal. Although the administration, leaders of both parties, and Wall Street drove a panicked stampede toward government intervention, Bill delivered a forceful case that still counters the myth that Washington had only one viable option to address the financial crisis. Bill's book is must reading for all who care about financial and economic reform." —Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA)