The Giant Pool of Money

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One good thing came out of the two hours I spent at DC’s only vehicle inspection station: I had a chance to listen to “This American Life’s” episode devoted to explaining — really! — the global sub-prime/credit crisis. It is exactly as funny and interesting as you wouldn’t expect it to be, a riveting narrative with distinct characters and plot twists — the most jarring of which might be just how quickly the American mortgage market went from a boring and safe investment backwater to the financial equivalent of the Wild West. The main character in the story is the “giant pool of money” — 70 trillion dollars — that “wants” to be invested around the world. There are surprisingly few villains, except maybe Alan Greenspan and the scads of mortgage brokers who pushed borrowers into loans they didn’t need and could never keep up with (one of the borrowers profiled discovers, much too late, that his broker told lenders that he earned $16,850 a month). I didn’t come away knowing any better which candidate has the best solution to the crisis, but I do think I get how it happened. More than you can say for John McCain! Am I right, folks? Am I right?

Anyway, there are some parts of the country where TAL hasn’t aired yet — check here — if you’re in one of them, I highly recommend tuning in. And it should be up in their archives or available via podcast next week.

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