Why are so many Americans perilously close to losing their homes or filing for bankruptcy? According to the authors of this persuasive and accessible book, they're caught in a nightmare of expanding debt, thanks to the confluence of deregulated financial markets and a ""fraying social safety net."" The authors, all analysts at the liberal think tank Demos, marshal moral indignation and rigorous research to argue that the deregulation of the last 30 years has not delivered on its promise; instead of increasing competition and thereby making prices lower and services better, deregulation has allowed financial institutions to sell shoddier products and profit handsomely from deceptive or exploitive practices. Those practices include escalating and ""hair-trigger"" fees on credit cards, payday loans with exorbitant interest rates and refinancing mortgages foisted on people who can't afford them. Meanwhile, regulators regularly gave in to the lending industry's demands or failed to provide oversight, allowing banks to raise interest rates and abdicate their obligation to lend responsibly. While the book can be dogmatic-the authors downplay any evidence detracting from their theses-it offers an illuminating history of the financial-services industry and its political influence, as well as a strong argument in favor of reforms that protect consumers and curb abusive lending.