Vern McKinley

Vern McKinley is the author of Financing Failure: A Century of Bailouts (Independent Institute, 2012).

Winning the War on Debt

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Those well-versed in the recent history of U.S. deficits and debt may not be aware—in fact I wasn’t—that the national debt was paid off during the 1830s. Carl Lane has stepped up to educate us all on this remarkable event, which was as brief as it is unlikely ever to recur. Lane, a professor of history at Felician College, seems at first blush to be addressing a narrow topic. His book actually has a broader scope that includes an early history of the nation’s finances, including the Bank of the United States. The main title of A Nation Wholly Free: The…

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Zombie GSEs

House sinking in water , housing crisis,flooding, ect. concept

Housing analyst Thomas H. Stanton displayed amazing prescience in 1991 with a book whose subtitle read: “Will Government-Sponsored Enterprises Be the Next Financial Crisis?” Stanton spent years detailing his concerns about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac potentially coming a cropper. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, he was a lonely voice on this issue accompanied by a small group of fellow analysts such as Peter Wallison and Bert Ely.

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A Bright Shining Failure


Timothy Howard’s The Mortgage Wars focuses on his unique perspective on the lead-up to the financial crisis. He is not a high-profile personality like former Treasury Secretaries Geithner or Paulson or Chairman Bair of the FDIC, as most people probably are unfamiliar with him. From his position as a former chief financial officer of Fannie Mae with decades of experience in senior management there, he certainly has much technical knowledge to share about the buildup of Fannie Mae to its status as a mega financial institution and then its spectacular crash landing in September 2008 when it was placed under…

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A Time of Crisis

First Great

An interesting byproduct of the recent financial crisis is the public’s greater awareness of the history of these calamities in the United States. Since 2008, economic historians have come forth with several accounts intended for the general reader. One such is Alasdair Roberts’ new book about a lesser-known instance, the Panic of 1837, and its aftermath. A few up-front observations should be made regarding Roberts’ chosen topic. Although an agreed-upon definition of recession has been established, and one can say implemented, by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), there is less agreement on what constitutes an economic depression. For example,…

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Lords of Chaos

The Alchemists

There is often a good story behind the circumstances of how an individual author comes to write a particular book at a particular moment. If you are ever at a social event with an author and want a conversation starter, they are generally more than happy to share their individual story with you. As for books on the financial crisis, one ‘story behind the book’ that I remember was told by Andrew Ross Sorkin, who wrote Too Big to Fail. As he tells it, he came home from work one night at 2:30am as the mega-insurance company AIG was about…

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Financing Failure: A Century of Bailouts

Financing Failure

So we were told with the passage of the Dodd-Frank Act that too big to fail was now behind us. Except it isn't. In fact, the conditions supporting bank bailouts have only gotten worse with the nation's largest banks actually increasing in size and scope since 2008. TBTF, however, goes back farther than you might think. This podcast with Vern McKinley on his book, Financing Failure, discusses the regulatory history of bank bailouts rather than winding down insolvent institutions. Contrary to the Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke narrative of the 2008 crisis, although the scope of the problem was new,…

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David Stockman’s Informed Anger

The Great Deformation

David Stockman is probably most well-known for his service as the first Director of the Office and Management and Budget under President Reagan. For those following politics at the time, the most vivid memory was likely when Reagan reportedly took Stockman “to the woodshed” after he, without clearing it with the President, spilled his guts to a reporter from the Atlantic Monthly about the inner workings of the budget process in the Reagan White House. Shortly after departing from the Reagan Administration, Stockman wrote a top-selling book, The Triumph of Politics, a book which I purchased in the late 1980s…

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