A Crisis Wasted Barack Obama’s Defining Decisions by Reed Hundt

This book is the compelling story of President Obama’s domestic policy decisions made between September 2008 and his inauguration on January 20, 2009.

Barack Obama determined the fate of his presidency before he took office. His momentous decisions led to Donald Trump, for Obama the worst person imaginable, taking his place eight years later.

This book describes these decisions and discusses how the results could have been different. Based on dozens of interviews with actors in the Obama transition, as well as the author’s personal observations, this book provides unique commentary of those defining decisions of winter 2008–2009.

A decade later, the ramifications of the Great Recession and the role of government in addressing the crisis animate the ideological battle between progressivism and neoliberalism in the Democratic Party and the radical direction of the Republican Party. As many seek the presidency in the November 2020 election, all candidates and of course the eventual winner will face decisions that may be as critical and difficult as those confronted by Barack Obama. This book aims to provide the guidance of history.

Early Praise for A Crisis is Wasted

“You’ll come away from this book admiring Hundt’s rare ability to mix thoughtful economic and political analysis with a front row narrative of recent history, topped off by a flair for pungent, clear writing. Hundt persuasively presents the blow by blow story of a president and his team wasting the “opportunity” of the Great Recession to change the fundamentals of the economy in a way that would have galvanized the middle class.”  — Steven Brill, Author of TAILSPIN: The People and Forces Behind America’s Fifty-Year Fall–And Those Fighting to Reverse It

“I bet you never thought the decision to make the 2009 fiscal stimulus $787 billion could read like a novel. Think again. In Hundt’s hands, it does. I don't agree the Obama team "wasted" the crisis of 2008-2009, though I am critical of its feeble attempts to stem the tsunami of foreclosures. In any event, this book explains the decisions made and is a useful springboard for thinking about how to handle the inevitable next crisis.” — Alan Blinder, Professor of Economics at Princeton University and former Vice Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

"This is a vivid and fascinating book, and also an important one. Reed Hundt has set out to offer a provocative interpretation, and he has succeeded. His book should start a debate on what went wrong and how it can be put right." — James Fallows, National Correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly and former editor of U.S. News & World Report

"Reed Hundt has written the definitive book on the failure of Barack Obama to seize what should have been a Roosevelt moment.  In a deeply reported and compelling read, the book lays bare how neoliberal ideology and capture of policy by Wall Street allies combined fatally with the folly of Obama’s wish to be a post-partisan president." — Robert Kuttner, Co-founder and Co-editor of The American Prospect and writer for Business Week, The Boston Globe, and The Huffington Post

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About the Author

Reed Hundt

Reed Hundt was a member of the transition teams for the Clinton and Obama presidencies. He was the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission in 1993–97. He has written four books, taught at Yale College, Law School, and School of Management, practiced law in California and Washington, DC, started for-profit and non-profit firms, served as a board member for numerous technology and communications firms, and raised a family with his wife Betsy in Chevy Chase, Maryland. He is the author of You Say You Want a Revolution and In China’s Shadow.