A book is ultimately the responsibility of its author, but in the process of becoming a book, it imposes burdens on many others. This book is dedicated to my wife, Judy, on whom the burden was greatest. Even in the best of times, I am not the easiest person to live with, and as I struggled to make this book say what I wanted it to say, I became even moodier than usual. The book evolved into an allpurpose excuse not to do things I should have wanted to do and that she wanted to do. "Oh no, we can't do that, because I've got to work on the book" became a constant refrain. Judy responded with routine encouragement, patient self-restraint and only infrequent exasperation. Thanks, Jude.

Next on the list of people who helped bring this project to conclusion is my longtime Newsweek colleague Richard Thomas, who for many years was the magazine's chief economics correspondent. He has forgotten more about the economy and its connections with politics and the everyday lives of Americans than I will ever know.

Rich has that rare combination among journalists of superb reporting skills (which are common) and an unconventional mind (which is rare) that allows him to see the larger significance of events even as they are unfolding, and well before most others. Rich read countless drafts of the manuscript and made many valuable substantive and editing suggestions. He also strove to be an amateur therapist, repeatedly declaring that the manuscript was "brilliant" even as he advised me to abandon entire sections of the "brilliant" draft or amend it to increase its "brilliance." Rich deserves much credit for the book's strong sections and warned me against some of the remaining weaknesses. Thanks to him for improving the manuscript and toiling so hard to lift my spirits.

David Lindsey, a former top staff economist at the Federal Reserve, also read multiple drafts of the book and worked diligently to ensure that I got the sequence of events correct and explained technical issues in terms that were clear and accurate. I may have failed, but if so, it's not Dave's fault.

At a crucial point in the process of revising and rewriting, I asked my old friend Jon Rauch—a writer for The Atlantic and National Journal and a 2005 winner of the National Magazine Award, the magazine equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize—to give me his impression. He read the whole thing, and by highlighting the book's strengths and weaknesses—often echoing what Rich and my editor, Jonathan Jao, had said—convinced me to do a fair amount of cutting and rearranging. Jon's candor and clarity in identifying unnecessary parts of the manuscript improved it significantly.

A number of other people read the manuscript and made helpful suggestions, not all of which I was smart enough to include: Joel

Havemann, the longtime editor for my column in The Washington Post; my brother Richard and my cousin Richard (we Samuelsons are not too original on names); Prakash Loungani, a friend and economist at the International Monetary Fund; and John McCusker, an economic historian at Trinity University in San Antonio. Thanks also to Mark Zandi of Moody's, who provided me with much of the statistical information found in the two appendixes and, aside from that, has consistently helped me understand the economy Malcolm Gillis, the ex-president of Rice University, invited me to give a lecture at the university (where my daughter was a student) that helped convince me to write the book. Pat Jackman at the Bureau of Labor Statistics has, over the years, helped me better understand the Consumer Price Index.

At the Federal Reserve, Dave Skidmore and Michelle Smith have responded quicky and cheerfully to my many requests for information, both in the course of my regular reporting and in the reporting for this book. Athanasios Orphanides, a former economist at the Fed who has studied extensively the period from the late 1960s to the early 1980s, gave me a very useful interview and provided some helpful background material. (Orphanides has since left the Fed to become the head of the Central Bank of Cyprus.) Allan Meltzer of Carnegie Mellon University, author of a two-volume history of the Fed, was kind enough to give me an advance copy of one chapter from his forthcoming second volume. In an interview for this book and over many years, he has also improved my understanding of the economy and the making of economic policy

Paul Volcker, former chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, submitted to two interviews for the book and also reviewed parts of the manuscript for accuracy. I am indebted to him for his cooperation. An interview with Alan Greenspan, Volcker's successor, was also helpful in confirming the importance that he attached to achieving a crude price stability.

At Random House, this book went through four editors—the number had little to do with the book and mostly reflected changes in the editors' personal lives (two of whom left Random House). But in Jonathan Jao, I found an editor who skillfully maneuvered the project to completion. His comments and suggestions were always thoughtful and often confirmed what I had been hearing from others. Where I was disorganized, he was organized. When he said he would do something, he did it—and did it when he said he would. He was open-minded—he listened to all my suggestions and preferences—but also strong-willed when he thought I was wrong. And he was always pleasant. My agent and neighbor, Rafe Sagalyn, remained optimistic about the project even when there were ample grounds for pessimism. As we walk our dogs, it will be easier now to have relaxed conversations.

Finally, there are my children: Ruth, Michael and John. They didn't have anything to do with the book. But they are everything that life is about. They help me keep things in perspective, and they are now old enough to have views of their own. After watching his dad wrestle with this book, Michael made one of his affectionately caustic suggestions: Don't do it again. It seems like good advice, though it remains to be seen whether I will take it.

Inevitably, this book will contain errors of fact and interpretation. For these, I claim exclusive responsibility.

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