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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Les Leopold Explains the Looting of America

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As the lengthy title of his second book would suggest, Les Leopold, author of The Looting of America: How Wall Street's Game of Fantasy Finance Destroyed Our Jobs, Pensions, and Prosperity and What We Can Do About It, aims to do two things: describe the financial collapse of 2008 in plain terms, and provide a road map to avoid being hooked and hoodwinked in the future.

Leopold sees himself as a translator of abstruse financial concepts for the everyman, and his approach is straightforward. While TheLootingof America doesn't require a reader's facility for the argot of finance or a thorough understanding of economic theory, it does count on the reader's ability to overlook the inevitable pitfalls of even the most accessible writing about finance (e.g. the inelegance of sentences weighted with numbers), and to sustain interest in the inherent aridity of the topic. In fewer than 200 pages, the book cheekily ends with Chapter 11 and includes a helpful glossary.

But despite the inclusion of a few awkward metaphors, such as comparing CDOs (see glossary) to iPods, Leopold maintains a tone of righteous indignation, balancing italics and exclamation points for emphasis without condescension. He helps readers sort through the spin, and challenges the prevailing notion that poor consumers-not behemoth financial institutions or the banks who offered subprime mortgages to those who couldn't possibly afford them-are to blame.

Leopold's suggestions for solving the quandary facing our economy are progressive, but they are not new: Green jobs, unionized labor and socialized financial institutions have dominated the debate since the fallout; some have been the cornerstone of the left-of-center platform for decades. And while they may sound familiar, Leopold reiterates the urgency for a radical departure from the policies of the past eight years. For those who require more than a glossary to flesh out their understanding of last year's economic events, Leopold will appear at Boswell Book Co. on Wednesday, July 8, at 7 p.m.

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