This American (Financial) Life: A Primer


Lehman Brothers NYC Offices, photographed by Peter Mumford on September 15, 2008

If all the news of the current financial debacle is making you wonder who exactly is responsible for this mess, what happened, and why, a recent episode of This American Life offers an up-close, straight-talking take on the market tumble. Pointy-headed financial terms are explained, with humor. It's called, tellingly, The Giant Pool of Money. Podcast here.

You'll hear from people all along the financial food chain, from a man with a no-questions-asked half million-dollar mortgage, to the former bartender who bundled NINA mortgages (that's No Income No Assets) into mortgage-backed securities subsequently purchased by big investment banks -- among them, the now-bankrupt Lehman Brothers. (Their fancy NYC offices are shown above, photographed just days ago, giant L.E.D. displays still glowing.) Wall Street brokers at the top share their view, too, in this intimate portrait of the global economy.

A follow-up listen, recorded locally: economist Naomi Klein speaking with KUOW's Steve Scher about The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, her year-old book. Listening to Klein's smart, accessible explanation helps to further explain the motivations behind the mess.

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