The Escape Artists by Noam Scheiber
How Obama's Team Fumbled the Recovery

No critic rating

Waiting for minimum critic reviews

See 3 Critic Reviews

What Scheiber offers is a judicious, nuanced and ultimately more persuasive chronicle of how contentious experts jockeyed to influence a young president stuck with an almost impossible set of chal­lenges.
-NY Times

Synopsis

FACING THE WORST ECONOMY SINCE THE 1930S, PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA HIRED A CRACK TEAM OF ESCAPE ARTISTS: financial wizards who had pulled off numerous white-knuckle getaways during the Clinton era and who were ready to do it all over again. Three years later, with the economy still in a rut, it’s clear that they fell far short. This is the inside story of what went wrong.

The Escape Artists features previously undisclosed internal documents and extensive, original reporting from the highest levels of the administration. Star White House journalist Noam Scheiber reveals the mistakes and missed opportunities that kept the president’s pedigreed team from steering the economy in the right direction. He shows what responsibility the president bears for those missteps, what bold actions his brain trust refused to take despite its preternatural confidence, and how the White House was regularly outmaneuvered by Republicans in Congress.

Tracking the administration’s efforts deep into the fall of 2011, The Escape Artists provides a gripping look inside the meeting rooms, in-boxes, and minds of the men who tried to manage the defining crisis of the Obama presidency: how the very qualities that made these men and women escape artists in the 1990s ultimately failed them.

 

***

 

THREE YEARS INTO THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY, THE UNEMPLOYMENT RATE WAS PAINFULLY HIGH, THE GAP BETWEEN RICH AND POOR HAD WIDENED, AND THE STIMULUS HAD NOT DONE ENOUGH TO BRING JOBS BACK. WHAT WENT WRONG?

A PRESIDENT WITH OTHER PRIORITIES . . .

Barack Obama hadn’t run for president just so he could clean up someone else’s mess, however urgent the task. He’d run for president to usher in once-in-a-generation achievements like health care reform—“to change the trajectory of America.”

Timothy Geithner remarked to President-elect Obama that “your signature accomplishment is going to be preventing a Great Depression.” Obama’s response was slightly jarring. “That’s not enough for me,” he said. It dawned on Geithner that he and his colleagues were a sideshow rather than the main attraction. “If you don’t do that, nothing else is possible,” Geithner protested. “Yeah,” Obama repeated, “but that’s not enough.”

AN ECONOMIC TEAM RELUCTANT TO TAKE BOLD ACTION . . .

David Axelrod was preparing Christina Romer, Obama’s chief economist, for a Sunday talk show. Many experts were voicing doubts about the size of the original package, and so Axelrod asked, “Was the stimulus big enough?” Without hesitating, Romer responded, “Abso-f---ing-lutely not.” She said it half-jokingly; Axelrod did not seem amused.

AND A BRAIN TRUST THAT BELIEVED IT KNEW BETTER . . .

It was the worst of all worlds for the Obama administration: a country that took one look at the languishing economy and another at the recovery on Wall Street and concluded that its government had put big banks ahead of ordinary people. Generously, the S&P officials didn’t point out any of this. Instead, the leader of the group confessed that the agency was mostly concerned about the prospects for bipartisan compromise.

At this, Geithner became dismissive. His message was unmistakable:

TRUST US, WE’VE DONE THIS BEFORE.
 

About Noam Scheiber

See more books from this Author
Noam Scheiber is a senior editor at the New Republic, writing about politics and Obama administration economic policy. He has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, New York magazine, and Slate, and has appeared on CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, and NPR. Noam lives in Washington, D.C. Audiobook veteran and AudioFile Earphones Award winner Michael Kramer has recorded more than two hundred audiobooks for trade publishers and many more for the Library of Congress Talking Books program. His audiobooks include North and South by John Jakes, and a number of other Jakes titles; capers and mysteries by Donald E. Westlake (a.k.a. Richard Stark), including Money for Nothing; and Robert Jordan's fantasy-adventure fiction. In addition, Michael received Audie Award nominations for The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson and Dead Aim by Thomas Perry, and a Publishers Weekly Listen-Up Award for Savages by Don Winslow.
 
Published February 28, 2012 by Simon & Schuster. 370 pages
Genres: Business & Economics, Political & Social Sciences, History, Education & Reference. Non-fiction
Add Critic Review

Critic reviews for The Escape Artists
All: 3 | Positive: 2 | Negative: 1

NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Paul M. Barrett on Mar 09 2012

What Scheiber offers is a judicious, nuanced and ultimately more persuasive chronicle of how contentious experts jockeyed to influence a young president stuck with an almost impossible set of chal­lenges.

Read Full Review of The Escape Artists: How Obama... | See more reviews from NY Times

NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Michiko Kakutani on Feb 27 2012

...Mr. Scheiber writes with ease and authority about complicated financial matters like the regulation of derivatives and too-big-to-fail banks.

Read Full Review of The Escape Artists: How Obama... | See more reviews from NY Times

Globe and Mail

Above average
Reviewed by BRIAN MILNER on Sep 06 2012

The Escape Artists produces no startling revelations.

Read Full Review of The Escape Artists: How Obama... | See more reviews from Globe and Mail

Reader Rating for The Escape Artists
66%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 31 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


Rate this book!

Add Review
×