If you’re anything like me or most anyone I know, chances are you’ve spent a good part of the last year reading and listening to stories about “collateral debt obligations” and “credit default swaps” and “toxic assets” and “zombie banks” and the like, with only a partial and fleeting understanding of what any of these things are, much less what they all mean. A recent episode of the NPR program This American Life titled “Bad Bank” does about as good a job as anything I’ve come across in explaining the great, big hairy mess that is threatening the U.S. banking industry and the whole global economy in straightforward, understandable, and yes, entertaining terms. From the show’s introduction:
Alex [Bloomberg] and Adam [Davidson] walk us step by step through the complications of the US government buying up bad assets from banks, and explain why, when it comes to footing the bill, the government might just prefer to not be in charge of the very banks it is having taxpayers bailout. From a dollhouse, to a hypothetical bank worth tens of dollars, to the trillions of dollars being spent to keep banks afloat, Alex and Adam talk economy, and where we might be headed.
You can listen to the full 40-minute segment online or download it as a podcast for $0.95.