Last week the best radio show ever, This American Life, tackled the housing and credit crisis by talking to some of the real people involved with packaging junk no-proof loans into “sensible” investments. In the words of host Ira Glass and friends, it all comes back to “The Giant Pool Of Money.” [This American Life]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Charybdis says:

    I so wanted to listen to this program, but I’ve never developed that ‘high Ira Glass tolerance’ that so many others seem to have fostered.

  2. Jabes says:

    @Charybdis: You should see if you can download a podcast — Ira was hardly on the program at all.

  3. Charybdis says:

    @Jabes: Thanks, I’ll check it out. Even then I can skip ahead if he’s on. :)

  4. ShortBus says:

    I was flipping stations and came across this over the weekend. I spent the next hour just sitting there, listening (not something I normally due at home). I very highly recommend this program. It very clearly explains the hows and whys of the subprime mortgage crisis.

  5. webothlikesoup says:

    @Charybdis: I am a huge Ira fan, but I know what you’re saying. The good news for you is that Ira lost his voice and barely does any talking during this episode. If ever there was an episode you would enjoy …

    I have to say the episode was excellent. Definitely worth the time.

  6. Trai_Dep says:

    Words cannot describe what a great episode this is. Ira and his guest hosts (poor Ira had his larynx abducted by feral cats who used it to sharpen their claws with, hock hairballs onto then rolled it back in his head) did a superb job of humanizing the entire chain and making a convoluted topic understandable.
    Basically, everyone was saying to themselves, “This is CRAZY,” but so long as the money train kept running, and the Wall Street guys (using dated, imperfect models) kept giving their blessing, everyone played along.
    They also repeatedly bring up one of my favorite points: you offer most people half a million dollars, “free”, they’ll take it, being optimistic, can-do Americans. It’s up to the banks lending the money to provide adult supervision.
    It’s available streaming and via podcast if you missed it.

  7. Trai_Dep says:

    And geez, Ben, is it SO hard to swipe a picture of Ira Glass or rampaging bankers? Or banker-cats rampaging? We’re simple, shallow folk that need lots of eye candy to click-thru. You really should have figured this out by now… :P

  8. Opie says:
  9. Trai_Dep says:

    @Charybdis: In a constructive light, try doing an interview with someone you barely know on a topic that, at first (and second, and third…) glance seems boring. Winnow the three hours of audio down to 5 entertaining, informative minutes.
    Now do that twenty times. A week.

    He (and his people) make what’s insanely difficult seem easy.

    For fun, you should try it. Really. It’s hard.

  10. Charybdis says:

    @Trai_Dep: I don’t recall claiming he and his crew didn’t work hard to put their show out. In fact I’m sure it would wear my ass out if I tried it, but that’s beside the point. I simply do not like listening to him. It’s a matter of taste, not one of ignorance.

  11. Parapraxis says:

    @Charybdis: @Trai_Dep:

    You know, I have no patience for self-proclaimed sea monsters and vietnamese narcissists, but I got through your posts just fine.

  12. Superawesomerad says:

    This American Life sucks. If I want to listen to upper-middle class white people wax poetic on their boring lives, I’ll hang out with my friends.

  13. This American Life is beyond the best radio show. I content it is the best piece of media the United States has set forth in since, well, ever.

    The best part is that, despite my friend Superawesomerad waxing ignorant via his statement above, it tackles everything this good country has to throw at us, from the lowest of the low to the fact that the bigger they are, the harder they fall.

  14. *contend.

  15. dweebster says:

    Yes, extremely good episode. Ought to be required listening for everyone, puts the lie to the ridiculous “invisible hand of the marketplace” Lie.

    The bloody hand of the market is totally visible if you are willing to look. Enron and the massive runup in basic housing prices far beyond income are just symptoms of people willing to toss out all common sense in exchange for a Lie.

  16. BlackFlag55 says:

    So long as our currency is issued as fiat (meaning, by decree, this paper is “money”) it is fake. Fake money has no value, therefore can be manipualted according to the designs of those control in what volume it is produced. This show illustrates the technical side of the mortgage stupidity, but not the foundational causality.

    This is such a simple topic, but the underlying magic is, as long as Congress can print its way into votes and out of trouble, we’re going to be held hostage to currency that has no value. And can maliciously be manipulated.

    But at some point entropy will win. Lots of people have cried wolf, ever since I can remember, but there WILL come a day when the House Of Fake Money will collapse. This mortgage FU is just one symptom of that day.

  17. Trai_Dep says:

    @Parapraxis: Whoa. Deeply impressed. First on the globe-spanning Gawker empire to grok my name. Although, that’s probably because Vietnamese and Viennese have much in common. :D

  18. Trai_Dep says:

    @BlackFlag55: You do realize that floating currencies’ values are set in a transparent fashion millions of times daily on the currency markets, right? And that pegged ones are subject to market cornering and other shenanigans?

  19. ShortBus says:

    @BlackFlag55: Didn’t you Ron Paul drones crawl back under the fridge already? I really hate it when people with a minor glimpse of economic theory proclaim that all the economists in the world are wrong. You might as well be arguing that email is worthless because it isn’t backed by real ink.

    Yes, fiat currency isn’t backed by something physical like gold, silver, or sea shells. Who cares? Apparently not the rest of the world, because everyone else accepts the US dollar at face value. I’d highly recommend that you take the time to educate yourself on the reasons why the dollar is a fiat currency (there are many good reasons).

    If you consider the dollar to be “fake” and “worthless,” why not just burn your share of them? Then try to pay your Internet bill with deer pelts and let me know how that works out.

  20. Juliekins says:

    I normally shut the radio off when TAL comes on. I “affectionately” refer to it as the “NPR Makes You Want To Shoot Yourself In The Face” show. It’s like they go out and find the most fucked up sad people they can and spend an hour making you want to die from sadness.

    This episode, however, was a fascinating change of pace. I really felt like I had a good handle on the subprime mortgage crisis after I listened to it, and I very much would like to get a podcast of it so I can listen again.

  21. BigElectricCat says:

    I’ve been following the subprime crisis closely, and also trying to explain some of the more egregious offenses and screwups to her. But even my most user-friendly explanations were met with “yeah, uh-huh,” until after she heard this episode.

    She’s much more clued in and interested in the matter now. I think TAL did a great job of explaining the situation, even for folks who don’t hava a background in finance.

  22. @dweebster: “Yes, extremely good episode. Ought to be required listening for everyone, puts the lie to the ridiculous “invisible hand of the marketplace” Lie.”


    Similarly, the federal government has express authority to regulate the economy. It is the proper regulation of the economy that allow markets to function. Without it, you have kleptocracy. In a sane world, there would be people being marched off to prison for this sort of thing. In the world we actually live in, however, you have Ben Bernacke throwing money out of helicopters trying to put out the fire. I wonder how much longer he can continue doing that before the dollar goes the way of the 1923 German reichsmark. In Europe, there are still a few very old people who remember when a wheelbarrow full of money wouldn’t buy a loaf of bread. It may take that sort of experience in America for us to wise up.

  23. Parapraxis says:


    You’re not the only vietnamese person on here… ;D

    (Keep up the good work)

  24. Superawesomerad says:


    Not sharing your tastes in entertainment != Ignorant

    But I will say that you’re very easily impressed if you think TAL is the greatest thing ever.

  25. nick_r says:

    @Superawesomerad: So, just to clarify, you don’t like listening to TAL, but you also don’t like hanging out with your friends.

  26. Trai_Dep says:

    @nick_r: …And yet he clicks and reads (and comments, twice!) on a story about TAL.
    I hate country music. With a passion. And you’ll never see me reading about Country, watching Country or (ye gods, why? why?!) commenting on a story about it.
    Perhaps there are unresolved issues crashing about in Superawesomerad‘s head. Dark, unrequited issues. Involving wilted, red roses, badly written poetry and doodles of bespeckled radio hosts blanketing the margins of his notebooks.
    And duct tape. LOTS of duct tape.
    (Ira, if you hear a knock on your door at 3am, don’t answer it!)

    @Parapraxis: Thanks! :)

  27. BlackFlag55 says:

    Dear Me, such a target rich environment of, I dunno … astonishingly vacuous comments appropos of nothing. It’s almost as if the Fed has paid employees lurking in order to flog together the usual clap trap of post-Bretton Woods pr. Yes, that’s it. Has to be. I mean who in their right mind would want to trade in a currency of debts instead of a currency of wealth?

    And for the record, I’m a charismatic Buddhist Olo sorcerer, not a Paulist.