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Jimmy Stewart Is Dead: Ending the World's Ongoing Financial Plague with Limited Purpose Banking

ISBN: 978-0-470-58155-1
241 pages
March 2010
Jimmy Stewart Is Dead: Ending the World
Discover how the global financial plague is poised to return, and what can be done to stop it

This is not your father's financial system. Jimmy Stewart, the trustworthy, honest banker in the movie, It's a Wonderful Life, is dead. And so is his small-town bank, Bailey Savings & Loan. Instead, we're watching It's a Horrible Mess with Wall Street (aka the Vegas Strip) playing ever larger craps with our economy and our tax dollars.

This book, written by one of the world's most respected economist, describes in lively, humorous, simple, but also deadly serious terms the big con underlying the big game the web of interconnected financial, political, and regulatory malfeasance that culminated in financial meltdown and brought us to our economic knees. But it also proposes an amazingly simply solution Limited Purpose Banking to make Wall Street safe for Main Street.

  • This book, as well as the financial fix described within it, have received rave reviews from a veritable who's who of policymakers and economics, plus five economics Nobel Laureates
  • Written by a leading economist whose insights on this topic are unparalleled
  • Outlines the first and only proposal to fundamentally fix our financial disaster for good

Jimmy Stewart Is Dead will fundamentally change the way you think about the economy, financial markets, and the government.

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Foreword by Jeffrey Sachs.

Preface.

Acknowledgments.

Chapter 1 It’s a Horrible Mess.

It’s Not Bailey Savings & Loan.

Economics Diary, Spring 2009: The D Word.

Economics Diary, August 22, 2009.

The Treasury’s No-Stress Stress Test.

Economics Diary, August 26, 2009: The State of the States.

It’s the Psychology, Duh!.

When Lexington, Massachusetts, Turns into Camden, New Jersey.

Economics Diary, August 29, 2009: The Great D or the Great R?

Systemic Risk Insurance.

Who’s Backstopping the Backstop?

Trust Doesn’t Come Cheap.

Full Nondisclosure.

A System with No Firewalls.

Chapter 2 The Big Con: Financial Malfeasance, American Style.

Richard Fuld or Elmer Fudd?

Playing Bridge as Bear Burned.

Macho, Macho Men.

Stan the Man.

Economic Diary, August 11, 2009: Uncle Sam Sues Uncle Sam.

Economics Diary, September 14, 2009: Judge Rakoff to the SEC: "Drop Dead".

The Prince of Redness.

CDOs to the Races.

CDO Liquidity Puts.

AIG’s Three-Hundred-Million-Dollar Man.

Franklin Delano Raines.

Speculation with Other People’s Money.

It’s the Leveraging, Not the Leverage.

Stealing Other People’s Money.

Madoff ’s Ponzi Scheme.

The Essence of Ponzi Schemes.

Economics’ Take on Ponzi Schemes.

Don’t Show Me the Money.

The Real Crime in a Ponzi Scheme.

Is the U.S. Banking System a Ponzi Scheme?

From Ponzi Schemes to Full Disclosure.

Disclosure Is Essential.

Disclosure Is Not Enough.

Uncle Sam’s Ponzi Scheme.

Fiscal Gap Accounting.

Why Is the U.S. Fiscal Gap So Large?

Social Security’s Unfunded Liability.

Is the U.S. Bankrupt?

Chapter 3 Uncle Sam’s Dangerous Medicine.

Sam’s Got Your Back.

Maturity Transformation in Theory and Practice.

Backing the Buck.

Opening Pandora’s Box.

Economics Diary, September 14, 2009: Trade/Financial War with China?

Our Once and Future Horrible Mess.

Big Brother, Can You Spare One Hundred Billion?

Bailing Out Corporate Pensions.

Recapitalizing the Banks.

Buying Up Toxic Assets.

GASP—The Geithner and Summers Plan.

Putting More of Someone Else’s Skin in the Game.

Leverage upon Leverage.

"Weapons of Mass Financial Destruction".

Proposed "Control of Derivatives".

The Dangers of Putting Wall Street on a Leash.

Chapter 4 "This Sucker Could Go Down".

Taking Stock.

We Are Not All Keynesians Now.

Reviewing the Case for Radical Surgery.

Chapter 5 Limited Purpose Banking.

Full Disclosure—No Plan Is Perfect.

Banks = Mutual Funds.

The Federal Financial Authority.

Ending Insider Rating.

Bye-Bye, Bernie, Bye-Bye, Allen.

Initiation, Not Securitization, Is the Problem.

Securitizing Death.

Cash Mutual Funds.

Obviating FDIC Insurance and Capital Requirements.

Cash Mutual Funds and Narrow Banking.

Regaining Control of the Money Supply.

Insurance Mutual Funds.

Illustrating a Life Insurance Mutual Fund.

Insuring the Uninsurable—A Life Insurance Example.

The Financial Risk of Swine Flu.

LPB Life Insurance Mutual Funds and Tontines.

Illustrating Other Types of Insurance Mutual Funds.

LPB Lets Us Leverage Us, But Not Our Countrymen.

Using Insurance Mutual Funds to Buy and Sell CDSs.

Sharing Aggregate Risk.

Parimutuel Betting and Insurance Mutual Funds.

Betting on More than One Horse/Mortality Rate.

Illustrating a Homeowner’s Insurance Mutual Fund.

Helping Solve the Corporate Governance Problem.

Relationship of Limited Purpose Banking to Glass-Steagall.

Isn’t LPB Simply Imposing 100 Percent Capital Requirements?

Chapter 6 Getting from Here to There.

Implementing Limited Purpose Banking.

Zombies and Gazelles.

Deleveraging Investment Banking and Trading.

An End to Rogue Trading.

The Politics of Limited Purpose Banking.

Chapter 7 What About?

Can We Just Agree to Agree?

Will LPB Reduce Liquidity?

Will LPB Reduce Credit?

Who Will Lend to Business?

Will LPB Reduce Leverage?

Will LPB Shrink the Financial Sector?

Doesn’t LPB Force Us to Become Our Own Bankers?

Isn’t LPB Reducing the Amount of Safe Assets?

Does LPB Require Homemade Insurance Policies?

Insuring Against Changes in Insurability.

With LPB You Don’t Know the Odds Until It’s Too Late.

Why Not Simply Correctly Price the Government’s Guarantees?

How Will Monetary Policy Operate?

What about Foreign Assets?

Won’t Americans Just Bank Abroad?

Doesn’t LPB Dramatically Shrink the Money Supply?

What’s the Role of the FFA in Investment Banking?

What about Venture Capital, Private Equity Firms, and Hedge Funds?

Is GE a Bank under LPB?

Can’t Nonfinancial Corporations Play Conventional Bank?

Why Let Proprietorships Run Traditional Banks?

Will LPB Prevent Financial Panics?

LPB Will Destroy Valuable Relationships and Information Banks Have About Their Borrowers.

Economics Diary, November 11, 2009: Whither the Economy?

Chapter 8 Conclusion.

Afterword Fixing the Rest of Our Economic Mess.

Fixing Taxes: The Purple Tax.

Fixing Healthcare: Medicare Part C for All!.

Fixing Social Security and Retirement Accounts: The Personal Security System.

Removing the Fiscal and Economic Swords of Damocles.

Notes.

About the Author.

Index.

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LAURENCE J. KOTLIKOFF is a William Fairfield Warren Professor of Economics at Boston University, Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, Fellow of the Econometric Society, and former Senior Economist, President's Council of Economic Advisers. Coauthor of The Coming Generational Storm and Spend 'Til the End and author of The Healthcare Fix, Kotlikoff has been published extensively in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and financial web sites on financial reform, taxes, saving, growth, deficits, Social Security, healthcare, pensions, and personal finance.

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"Kotlikoff has presented a thought-provoking proposal that merits attention in the debate over financial regulation."
—Kenneth Silber, FrumForum.com, March 2010

"Jimmy Stewart Is Dead makes for provocative reading. We certainly have squandered much of America's business and economic strength in the pursuit of personal gain and huge if not obscene bonuses. … It might just be easier to find another Jimmy Stewart. I'd call him Mr. Smith. And I'd ask him to go to Washington."
—Philip Moeller, U.S. News & World Report

"Kotlikoff grabs us by the collar, brilliantly unveiling the truth about our financial system. With scintillating arguments, vivid examples, and terrific wit, he offers a powerful reform that stops banks from gambling and restricts them to their legitimate purpose, 'connecting borrowers to lenders and savers to investors.' This is economics at its very best: deeply insightful and powerfully useful. It will change the global debate."
—JEFFREY SACHS, Director of The Earth Institute, Quetelet Professor of Development and Health Policy, Columbia University

"Financial reform needs something simple, clear, and, most of all, effective. Read this book to get and understand the answer."
—GEORGE SHULTZ, Distinguished Fellow, the Hoover Institution, former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, and former U.S. Secretary of State

"At last! A real financial page-turner. Kotlikoff calls out the bad actors behind the financial crisis and nails them cold. But he also tells us how to prevent it from happening again. It's called Limited Purpose Banking. Anyone can read this book—and everyone should."
—SCOTT BURNS, Financial Columnist, Universal Press Syndicate

"Jimmy Stewart Is Dead is a page-turner, as fast-paced as The Simpsons, with new insights on every page. As fun as it is, Jimmy Stewart is also deadly serious. It describes our deep financial problems and offers an amazingly simple financial fix to prevent an even worse crash. Everyone should read this book."
—GEORGE AKERLOF, Koshland Professor of Economics, University of California at Berkeley, Nobel laureate in Economics

"Kotlikoff's book makes an impassioned, coherent, and convincing case for Limited Purpose Banking."
—ROBERT E. LUCAS, Jr., John Dewey Distinguished Professor of Economics, University of Chicago, Nobel laureate in Economics

"This book is 'must' reading for everyone who cares about the future of the American economy."?
—ROBERT W. FOGEL, Walgreen Distinguished Service Professor, University of Chicago, Nobel laureate in Economics

"Kotlikoff is right. Unless we institute fundamental reforms, there will be an even greater crisis. This well-written book is a must-read for those concerned with reforming the financial system."
—EDWARD C. PRESCOTT, W. P. Carey Chair in Economics, Arizona State University, Nobel laureate in Economics

"Certainly we need to abandon today's hazardous financial system. Kotlikoff's Limited Purpose Banking plan is one of the best visions to surface so far."
—EDMUND PHELPS, McVickar Professor of Political Economy, Columbia University, Nobel laureate in Economics

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March 01, 2010
Jimmy Stewart is Dead: Ending the World’s Ongoing Financial Plague with Limited Purpose Banking

Make no mistake, Jimmy Stewart, the honest, trustworthy banker in It's a Wonderful Life, is dead. And so is his small-town, virtuous bank—Bailey Savings and Loan. Today, a very different financial movie, It's a Horrible Mess, is playing on Main Street. This economic horror show—produced by Wall Street and directed by Congress—is no happy Christmas story, but a tale of pervasive and massive financial malfeasance that has devastated the lives of millions of people around the globe.

Though our financial system lies in tatters and economic misery stalks the land, the horrible mess is far from over. The government, who aided and abetted the financial fraud, is working overtime to restore a financial system that's virtually designed for hucksters, that no one can trust, and that stands on shaky ground.  But there is hope!

In his new book, Jimmy Stewart is Dead: Ending the World’s ongoing Financial Plague with Limited Purpose Banking (Wiley, March 2010, 978-0-470-58155-1, $27.95), Professor of Economics at Boston University Laurence Kotlikoff tells how the government’s strategy is the same as Wall Street's—borrow short, place risky bets, make financial commitments you can't possibly keep, and let no one see precisely what you're doing. The sums involved are enormous and have positioned us and our children far beyond our capacity to pay. Without the right financial fix, the global financial plague will strike again with even more devastating force.

This is where Kotlikoff’s plan comes in. 

Jimmy Stewart is Dead describes the web of interconnected financial, political, and regulatory misconduct that culminated in financial meltdown and brought us to our economic knees. Throughout the book, Kotlikoff not only surveys the events surrounding our economic collapse, but also conveys their deeper economic meaning, particularly the danger of maintaining the financial status quo. Along the way, he proposes Limited Purpose Banking (LPB)—a straightforward and easily implemented plan to make Wall Street safe for Main Street.

Featured in the Financial Times, BusinessWeek, Bloomberg, The New Republic, Forbes, The Times of London, Fox News, and other top media, LPB transforms all financial corporations into pass-through mutual companies that can never fail, never leverage the taxpayer, and never sell fraudulent securities. LPB is the first and only proposal that could fundamentally end our enduring financial plague and restore economic prosperity.   His strategy for no-risk banking is being carefully considered by Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England.  Indeed, the Times of London has hailed Kotlikoff as King’s “guru.”

Whether or not you agree with Kotlikoff's conclusion, you'll find his analysis of the crisis and his simple and realistic solution a true economic eye-opener. Jimmy Stewart Is Dead will fundamentally change the way you think about the economy, financial markets, the government, and the safest way to shape our economic future.

*see complete list of endorsements attached.

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