Wednesday, May 21, 2008

NPR: The Giant Pool of Money

I'm a sucker for episodes of This American Life. No matter what the subject, the program always seems to lure me in with its combination of sentimental narration and poignant documentary. Episode 355 isn't merely entertaining, it manages to educate and encapsulate this whole economic/mortgage crisis. I recommend it to anyone interested in how we got here.

Here are the program notes:
355: The Giant Pool of Money (click here to be directed to the site, then click on the full episode link on the left.)

A special program about the housing crisis produced in a special collaboration with NPR news. We explain it all to you. What does the housing crisis have to do with the turmoil on Wall street? Why did banks make half-million dollar loans to people without jobs or income? And why is everyone talking so much about the 1930s? It all comes back to the Giant Pool of Money.

A shorter companion version of this story appeared on NPR's "All Things Considered."


Ira talks with NPR business and economics correspondent about two gatherings he attended. One at the Ritz Carlton and one at a community college in Brooklyn. The first was an awards dinner for finance professionals who created the mortgage based financial instruments that nearly brought down the global economic system. The other was a non-profit conference for people facing foreclosure. Ira explains that today's show lays out how the finance guys and the people facing foreclosure are connected by a chain of middlemen, and that together, they all brought about the current housing and credit crisis. (4 minutes)

Act One.

This American Life producer Alex Blumberg teams up with NPR's Adam Davidson for the entire hour to tell the story - the surprisingly entertaining story - of how the US got itself into a housing crisis. They talk to people who were actually working in the housing, banking, finance and mortgage industries, about what they thought during the boom times, and why the bust happened. And they explain that a lot of it has to do with the giant global pool of money. (31 minutes)

Song: "Hard Times," The Sex-o-Rama Soundtrack

Act Two.

Alex and Adam's story continues. (23 minutes)

Song: "Time Machine," Grand Funk Railroad

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