The Six Degrees of Michael Lewis

Oddly enough, the three biggest stories in San Jose right now—not including police shootings—all have one thing in common: the most famous nonfiction author in America, Michael Lewis. The movie Moneyball, adapted from Lewis’ 2003 book, has grossed almost $50 million in just three weeks. The film details the pioneering approach to statistics and business taken by Oakland A’s general manager Brad Pitt Billy Beane. It also depicts Oakland as a sinkhole, where being profitable is next to impossible. Could it be that rave reviews for the film encouraged A’s owner Lew Wolff to tell reporters a couple weeks ago he expects a decision on whether the team can relocate to San Jose “very soon”? The six degrees of Michael Lewis and San Jose came a step closer on Oct. 2, when the Occupy Wall Street movement arrived at City Hall’s doorstep. In his book from last year, The Big Short, Lewis details the work of genius broker Dr. Michael Burry, a San Jose native who predicted the subprime mortgage crisis. The drop in home prices has hit few places harder than Silicon Valley, and the way banks bet against their own loans to get rich has been a rallying cry for the city’s occupation protestors. But in Lewis’ newest tome, Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World, the author details how countries, states and cities are going bankrupt, and he uses San Jose as a model for implosion by pension. Mayor Chuck Reed is currently reading the book, but he says he skipped ahead to see what Lewis had to say about him and his city in the chapter focusing on California’s economy. The mayor credits Lewis with having a rare talent for making San Jose’s complex financial issues easy to understand and many times funny. But, Reed says, Lewis took a little literary license by writing that two of the mayor’s aides laughed in unison that they were thankful not to be in Vallejo’s bankrupt boots. The mayor says only one staffer, Dave Low, had the honor of being the last thing Lewis saw as the elevator doors closed on the 18th floor.

The Fly is a weekly column written by San Jose Inside staff that provides a behind-the-scenes look at local politics.


  1. So here it is Lew Wolf is running a dying ball club. He can’t sell the seats he can’t turn a profit. For years Oakland has spent millions on the A’s.  Now there is a movie , book even a letter from 09 from the A’s stating they are not selling tickets but chuck Reed wants to give his friend Wolff a billion dollars to build a park and bring the A’s to San Jose. Once again San Jose is going to spend and promise money to people who provide a service while not funding that promise. Instead they steer the funds to those who pay then well for favors.  If San Jose paid it’s bills it would have the money. The elected have skimmed billions over the years and now they tell a silly story about being able to solve the problem if every household would hand over $16,000 dollars.
      More and more lies.

  2. City Hall says baseball stadium is privately financed aand city will not be spend taxes – totally unbeilevable

    Others say city will be spend $100 million on stadium / land and millions more in free service and tax subsidies each year to Lew Wolff A’s – More Believable

    Heard Tom McEnery has made a deal with Lew Wolff to use baseball stadium for concerts and other events when there are no baseball games in return for McEnery’s political support like Wolff / McEnery’s deal for Earthquakes Stadium concerts / non soccer events – Beleivable since Reed, Liccardo and MsEnery are buddies

    Where are you getting your numbers to support ” but Chuck Reed wants to give his friend Wolff a billion dollars to build a park and bring the A’s to San Jose. ” ?  – Not Believable even for San Jose insider political deals

    Many people would like to see your billion $  baseball numbers, a link to numbers and what City Hall gives out as baseball stadium city tax costs


  3. Did Vanity Fair mention a key component of municipal fiscal corruption? The City politicians have promised at nauseum to reign in the housing business imbalance, but only talk and do the opposite. Since Mayor Hayes, they have continually prostituted themselves to their biggest contribution source, the housing development machine, supported even by the Labor Council. We are now in the midst of a huge housing boom in case you did not notice, with thousands of units going on line as we speak. The General Plan Update slated for 120,000 new units in a few years. This assumed growth “requirement” was shoved down the throats of the Task Force, with claims that San Jose would violate laws and be sued if we did not comply. The Reed and Constant support of the Rancho Pueblo conversion is proof in point that it is all lip service. No one has suggested that there is one of Reed’s developer buddies behind this. The General Plan has been for sale to the highest bidder for 2 decades, digging the hole of insufficient revenue to support the 1 mil residents.

    This is all supported by the Chamber and Leadership group, as San Jose is there spot, to provide all their housing needs for corporate expansion, leaving the City well dry. A wholesale change in this corrupt paradigm is our only hope. The chances of that are nil, with voters who can’t even see these units are not for their children but for tech employees predominantly coming from outside San Jose, the region, the state, and in fact more than 50% from outside the USA! Lets face it, we know who is really calling the shots. The Occupy group has accurately identified the betrayers of the American Dream not to mention municipal health.

  4. I smell another bond coming up to build the stadium.
    Make sure you all remember to blame the city employees pensions for the coming fiscal imbalance.

  5. Boomerang started out ok but then when Chuck started bad mouthing the public safety workers again I lost faith in Michael Lewis to be objective. Didn’t even talk with the Police Officer or Firefighter talked with a F.C. from Vallejo.  Chuck got on into Arbitration crying it only benefitted the Unions… Not true both sides lose some and gain some. He has to blame something though….Has he been around long?
    Sick leave buyout was suppose to save overtime dollars and it did guess he forgot that little fact. Council was hoping Police and Fire would all retire out on disability

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