Busted: Life Inside the Great Mortgage Meltdown - Edmund L. Andrews

When Andrews sticks to reporting on the different angles (Greenspan/Bernake Fed, the Treasury, various government regulating agencies, various private sector agencies, the banks, etc), it is a fine introduction to the causes that led to the housing meltdown/credit market freeze of 2007and global recession of 2008; however, there are probably better books out there that can do just a fine of a job introducing a reader into those causes. It is average at best. As a reporter for the New York Times covering finance and economics, Andrews has contacts and connections to help give him access to those within the industry and in government.

 

When Andrews goes personal in recounting his story with his own family and their house, it is DEFINITELY EVERYTHING THAT IS NOT FINE. This guy and his wife are real pieces of work. Andrews reunites with his childhood friend/teenage crush Patty after twenty plus years and decides to divorce his wife (of 21 years) to be free to pursue Patty, a recent divorcee and homemaker of 20+ years. The way Andrews describes the ending of his marriage (yeah, ex-wife gets the shrew bitch treatment) and how he happily went to Iraq for two months to cover the war after Patty encouraged him to chase his passion, did not endear him to me. Andrews is knee deep in financial mismanagement just coming out of his divorce; between child support and alimony payments, he is paying $4,000 a month to his ex-wife while pursuing Patty who lives on the other side of the country. He is middle-aged white guy having a mid-life crisis and Patty is in need of a new sugar daddy. He and Patty decide to move in together and blend their children into a new family, complete with a home in an over heated and dangerous housing and mortgage market. Doesn't matter how little he brings home after paying his ex-wife because Patty will be the breadwinner! - except she is moving away from everything she built over the past 20 years to move across the country and has no contacts and really, no ambition to get a corporate job. She just really wants to continue being a SAHM, but Andrews is clearly depending on her to bring in six figures to help pay for all the things he wants to give their new family. So they run up credit cards, re-finance their mortgage twice during the heady days of the housing boom, run up their credit cards AGAIN, start taking out loans from their retirement accounts - just one piss poor financial decision after another. Patty is flinting from job to job, so that six figure corporate job Andrews hopes come true is a pipe dream. Their marriage is a disaster; the fights they have include him throwing objects at her, him throwing punches at the wall and in furniture (while she is standing in front of/near wall/furniture), and aggressively gas-lighting.

 

Needless to say, their personal life is a shit storm of epic proportions. Did I mention the fact that Andrews is a reporter for the New York Times, specializing on topics relating to economics and finance?

 

When I finished reading the book, I searched Andrews out on Google to find any update to this story, I find that his second wife (Patty) filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in 2007. So as Andrews was writing about his family's financial woes, his wife was filing bankruptcy - for the second time. Turns out Patty filled for bankruptcy the first time with her first husband; the second bankruptcy was filed as soon as the law permitted (seven years between the two bankruptcy). Neither bankruptcy was written about in the book (it came out after bloggers wrote about it as part of reviews for the book). One such blogger was Megan Mcardle at The Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2009/05/the-road-to-bankruptcy/17976/

 

Andrews also came under fire for being a reporter for the NYT as a finance and economics journalist while having such financial difficulties - and how he was already writing the book/looking for a publisher while the housing meltdown was going on and he was reporting on it for the NYT.

 

1.5 stars for reporting on the crisis, but I can't recommend this book due to the author's actions and misinformation.