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Do You Believe in Magic? (A Review of Busted: Inside the Great Mortgage Meltdown)

Veteran New York Times economics reporter Edmund L.  Andrews uses two distinct voices as he chronicles his and the world’s recent descent into near bankruptcy.   Andrews uses simple sentences and overtly simple logic when he focuses on his own life.   At times the reader is treated to some crude expressions of frustration and hostility as he spreads out his marital dirty laundry.   His new wife, Patty, is often described as the true love and soul mate in his life.   But she is also painted as the primary source of his frustrations and money woes because she is not a “go getter” in the corporate world after being a stay-at-home mom for 20 years in a prior relationship.   Andrews apparently was unaware that people do not change their nature, no matter how much one may want it to happen.

Although Andrews could barely afford a decent apartment in the aftermath of his divorce, he financed an over-priced home on a tree lined street outside Washington, D.C.   His rationale was that he and his new love would be cozy and happy in a cute new abode.

In contrast, Andrews’ accounting of the U.S. and world-wide economic tailspin appears to be simply a compilation of many articles he wrote for the Times.   The polished diction is markedly different from the narrative of his personal tale.   We are told that bogus assumptions were used to justify absurd conclusions and the assumptions were rationalizations for judgments that had no basis in fact.   Andrews often adopts the patronizing tone of a disgruntled professor, to the point where the reader fears the dreaded and inevitable pop quiz!

Subsequent to this book’s publication, it was revealed that new wife Patty twice declared bankruptcy, once during the period covered here.   Andrews’ omission of this fact appears to be a glaring and highly relevant defect in the telling of this flawed morality tale.   At one point, Andrews casually writes “it was easier to borrow a half-million dollars and buy something,” as if he were writing about Monopoly money.   There is something very troubling in the contradiction between the reporter-author’s learned big picture view of the U.S. economy, and his seeming inability to focus on the poor habits that resulted in his own economic distress.   It is a bit like reading a Guide to Good Health written by a four pack-a-day cigarette smoker.

This review was written by Joseph Arellano.   Reprinted courtesy of Sacramento Book Review.Busted (right)


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