Trillion Dollar Triage

How Jay Powell and the Fed Battled a President and a Pandemic—and Prevented Economic Disaster

Little, Brown and Company (March 1, 2022)

The inside story, told with “insight, perspective, and stellar reporting,” of how an unassuming civil servant created trillions of dollars from thin air, combatted a public health crisis, and saved the American economy from a second Great Depression (Alan S. Blinder, former Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve).

By February 2020, the U.S. economic expansion had become the longest on record. Unemployment was plumbing half-century lows. Stock markets soared to new highs. One month later, the public health battle against a deadly virus had pushed the economy into the equivalent of a medically induced coma. America’s workplaces—offices, shops, malls, and factories—shuttered. Many of the nation’s largest employers and tens of thousands of small businesses faced ruin. Over 22 million American jobs were lost. The extreme uncertainty led to some of the largest daily drops ever in the stock market.

Nick Timiraos, the Wall Street Journal’s chief economics correspondent, draws on extensive interviews to detail the tense meetings, late night phone calls, and crucial video conferences behind the largest, swiftest U.S. economic policy response since World War II. Trillion Dollar Triage goes inside the Federal Reserve, one of the country’s most important and least understood institutions, to chronicle how its plainspoken chairman, Jay Powell, unleashed an unprecedented monetary barrage to keep the economy on life support. With the bleeding stemmed, the Fed faced a new challenge: How to nurture a recovery without unleashing an inflation-fueling, bubble-blowing money bomb?

Trillion Dollar Triage is the definitive, gripping history of a creative and unprecedented battle to shield the American economy from the twin threats of a public health disaster and economic crisis. Economic theory and policy will never be the same.

Reviews:

“A sensational book ... that tells on a day-by-day basis what was going on in March [2020]"

"It's a marvelous account of what took place."

Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway

"The book’s strength lies in its detailed original reporting and the fast-paced narrative of the harrowing month that ... the coronavirus was taking off in 2020."

The Washington Post

"{A]n excellent book...on Fed chairman Jay Powell's actions during the early stage of the pandemic.

Fortune

“This is a riveting story of policy making in crisis and an illuminating examination of how drastically the Fed’s role in the economy has changed.”

Publishers Weekly

“Timiraos’s conclusion, that the Fed has been asked to do too much, feels like the right one.”

Strategy + Business

“This is the book we need. The Federal Reserve’s actions since the pandemic hit have been numerous, varied, huge—and poorly understood. Nick Timiraos straightens it all out with insight, perspective, and stellar reporting. Thank you, Nick.”

―Alan S. Blinder, Professor of Economics at Princeton University and former Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve

 

“Nick Timiraos takes readers behind the curtain to see how the creativity and courage of leaders—in this case Jay Powell and his ‘troika plus one’—could save a terrified nation from falling into an economic abyss.  In the midst of a health crisis and political and economic turmoil, we were lucky to have that leadership, as we are now to have this gripping narrative.”

―Jacob J. Lew, former U.S. Treasury Secretary

 

“As the Fed, again, rushes to rescue the economy, Nick Timiraos goes backstage to reveal what Jay Powell and his colleagues were doing, thinking, and worrying about and why. It’s all here: the history, the economics, the politics, the tensions between key actors, the revealing interviews, the previously unreported details – all meticulously reported and deftly told.”

―David Wessel, Author of In Fed We Trust: Ben Bernanke’s War on the Great Panic and Director of Hutchins Center on Fiscal & Monetary Policy, Brookings Institution

 

“The economy collapsed from the pandemic but the Great Financial Crisis of 2020 never happened. Nick Timiraos helps us understand why with a front row seat on the decisions made by Jerome Powell and the Federal Reserve.  But whether it’s the Fed’s unprecedented moves, President Trump’s public attacks of the Chair, or Congress pulling the Fed directly into fiscal policy, the book raises the haunting, crucial question of whether things will ever be the same again.”

―Austan D. Goolsbee, former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers and Robert P. Gwinn Professor of Economics at University of Chicago Booth School of Business

Events and Media:

Slate Money, February 26

Trillion Dollar Triage

Yahoo Finance Live, March 1

"Powell challenged ‘institutional timidity’ in pandemic response"

The Brookings Institution, March 2

The Powell Fed: Looking back and looking ahead

Town Hall Seattle, March 3

In conversation with David Wessel

FOX 5 DC, March 12

On the Hill with Tom Fitzgerald

C-SPAN Washington Journal, March 15
"Nick Timiraos previews Federal Reserve meeting"

Fox Business Network, March 16

Mornings with Maria, Federal Reserve meeting preview

CBS News, March 16

"Federal Reserve announces the first interest rate hike since 2018"

PBS Newshour, March 16
"Fed raises interest rates in effort to tame inflation"

The Reserve podcast, March 17

With Kaleb Nygaard, Yale Program on Financial Stability

KCRW, March 18

Left, Right & Center

Fox Business Network, March 21

Mornings with Maria, Fed Chair Jay Powell speaks

Forward Guidance with Jack Farley, March 23

"The Fed's Forward Guidance Is No More"

Bipartisan Policy Center, March 25

BPC weekly podcast

HPS Insights, April 4

In conversation with HPS Partner Matt McDonald

In House Warrior, April 6

Real Washington podcast with Richard Levick and Michael Zeldin

Fox Business Network, April 11

Mornings with Maria, Bond market sell-off

Macro Musings podcast, April 18

In conversation with David Beckworth

BiggerPockets, April 25

"The Fed's interest rate 'warning'"

WTFinance, May 6

In conversation with Anthony Fatseas

Fox Business Network, May 18

Mornings with Maria, Powell's WSJ interview

Coaching for Leaders, May 24

"Handling a Difficult Stakeholder"

CBS News, May 31

"Biden vows to let Fed do its work to fight inflation"

CNBC, June 13

Closing Bell: Overtime

Fox Business Network, June 15

Mornings with Maria, Fed seeks to slow economy