Back in January 2010, seeking o learn more about the mortgage-backed securities that helped destroy the global economy, the staff of National Public Radio’s Planet Money podcast pooled their money and bought part of a mortgage-backed bond. “Toxie” lasted only a few more months, earning $449 for her owners before so few mortgage payments were coming in that she “died.” Or at least stopped earning money.
As the Troubled Asset Relief Program winds down, post-mortems for the program are rolling in. According to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, the bailout effort — which was launched by former President George W. Bush in 2008 and officially ended last month — will end up costing taxpayers a mere $50 billion, rather than the $350 billion that the Congressional Budget Office pegged it at last year.
To see what would happen, reporters for NPR’s Planet Money pooled their money and bought a toxic asset for $1,000. At 99% off, it seemed like a bargain. This week, “Toxie,” as they dubbed their pet, gave up the ghost. Contrary to expectation, she was killed not by foreclosures, but by loan modifications, which reduced the amount of cash flowing into the bond. Planet Money tells the whole story in this awesome and hilarious animation.
To dig right into the meat of the story they’ve been tracking for over a year, NPR Planet Money reporters David Kestenbaum, Chana Joffe-Walt plunked $1000 down and bought up a securitized pack of Countrywide mortgages. At one point it was worth $75,000. Will the homeowners pay their mortgages and the reporters make their money back or will too many houses get sold at a loss and the asset implode? Follow along and find out.