The Money Meltdown
October 1, 2008 7:03 PM   Subscribe

The Money Meltdown
After much digging, I still couldn't find a site that clearly and concisely pointed me to good information on our financial crisis. So I've attempted to make one.

My hope is to provide a good starting point for folks who want to get up to speed on the crisis. I've scoured the Web for posts that are informative, accessible, non-hysterical, well-written, and non-ideological. If you've got an excellent link to recommend, please send them along.
posted by grrarrgh00 (7 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

This is fantastic.
posted by waxpancake at 11:41 PM on October 1, 2008

Thanks for this. Indeed it's a great roundup. There was a good thread on AskMe, Help me understand the current economy, where I had some links that I feel are tremendously relevant. I'll re-post that here:

New York Magazine has a profile of David Einhorn, The Confidence Man, who was calling Lehman's bluff a long time before their demise.
A few days before this year’s conference in May, Einhorn and his analysts at Greenlight had a private call with Erin Callan, the then–chief financial officer of Lehman Brothers. In two previous speeches at other investing conferences, Einhorn had raised doubts about Lehman; in April, he had explicitly stated that his firm was shorting Lehman, meaning that it had borrowed stock and sold it, with the idea that the firm would replace it at a later date when the stock declined in value (in essence, a bet that the stock would go down, not up). Very few people publicize their shorts, and when Einhorn did, it got Lehman’s attention. The conversation with Callan was to give her a chance to explain discrepancies he had uncovered between the firm’s latest financial filing and what had been discussed during its conference call about that filing.

That very week, a glowing profile of Callan had appeared in The Wall Street Journal, describing her in the headline as “Lehman’s Straight Shooter.” But she’d only been on the job six months and her background was as a tax lawyer, not in finance. She was evidently not prepared for the complexity of Einhorn’s questions and tried to bluff her way through. “The conversation was reminiscent of the ones I had with Allied,” says Einhorn. “We had our questions, we were organized, but she was evasive, dishonest. Their explanations didn’t make any sense.”

And so Einhorn, his sense of righteousness piqued, made a fateful decision: to use the conference to skewer Lehman Brothers. Given the abuse he’d received after he eviscerated Allied, he had to know that this might also have unpleasant consequences. But he was determined to out Lehman as emblematic of the greed and arrogance that had caused the credit crisis in the first place.
The New York Times Magazine had an amazing profile of Nouriel Roubini, Dr. Doom - Profile - Nouriel Roubini - Predicting Crisis in the United States Economy, which I think is required reading for anyone who wants to know about the current state of affairs.
On Sept. 7, 2006, Nouriel Roubini, an economics professor at New York University, stood before an audience of economists at the International Monetary Fund and announced that a crisis was brewing. In the coming months and years, he warned, the United States was likely to face a once-in-a-lifetime housing bust, an oil shock, sharply declining consumer confidence and, ultimately, a deep recession. He laid out a bleak sequence of events: homeowners defaulting on mortgages, trillions of dollars of mortgage-backed securities unraveling worldwide and the global financial system shuddering to a halt. These developments, he went on, could cripple or destroy hedge funds, investment banks and other major financial institutions like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The audience seemed skeptical, even dismissive. As Roubini stepped down from the lectern after his talk, the moderator of the event quipped, “I think perhaps we will need a stiff drink after that.” People laughed — and not without reason. At the time, unemployment and inflation remained low, and the economy, while weak, was still growing, despite rising oil prices and a softening housing market. And then there was the espouser of doom himself: Roubini was known to be a perpetual pessimist, what economists call a “permabear.” When the economist Anirvan Banerji delivered his response to Roubini’s talk, he noted that Roubini’s predictions did not make use of mathematical models and dismissed his hunches as those of a career naysayer.

But Roubini was soon vindicated. In the year that followed, subprime lenders began entering bankruptcy, hedge funds began going under and the stock market plunged. There was declining employment, a deteriorating dollar, ever-increasing evidence of a huge housing bust and a growing air of panic in financial markets as the credit crisis deepened. By late summer, the Federal Reserve was rushing to the rescue, making the first of many unorthodox interventions in the economy, including cutting the lending rate by 50 basis points and buying up tens of billions of dollars in mortgage-backed securities. When Roubini returned to the I.M.F. last September, he delivered a second talk, predicting a growing crisis of solvency that would infect every sector of the financial system. This time, no one laughed. “He sounded like a madman in 2006,” recalls the I.M.F. economist Prakash Loungani, who invited Roubini on both occasions. “He was a prophet when he returned in 2007.”

Roubini's been predicting this collapse for years. His recent interviews on Charlie Rose are riveting.

A discussion about the takeover of Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac

A discussion about the crisis on Wall Street

(Skip the Larry Summers monologue and jump to 13:30, that's where Roubini joins the round table discussion.)

posted by gen at 2:20 AM on October 2, 2008

Beautiful website, I love the section headings arranged on the side like that. You've broken down the issue very cleanly, even taking short attention spans into account, and offered a good look at the bailout and its alternatives. I'll be diving into this now.
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 9:15 AM on October 2, 2008

Planet Money, a new podcast series from National Public Radio, is really great. It was set up as a result of the high popularity of two reports by Alex Bloomberg on This American Life which explained the financial crisis in superb ways.
posted by Mo Nickels at 12:52 PM on October 2, 2008

Damn. And now I see on your site you already know about the Bloomberg/Davidson reports. Still, the podcast is worth mentioning.
posted by Mo Nickels at 12:53 PM on October 2, 2008

Wow, thanks for making this page! I had sort of a rough understanding of this but like you, hadn't found something that went into the kind of detail I needed. This page does it! Excellent!
posted by Effigy2000 at 3:25 PM on October 6, 2008

I love the whole concept of the site - simplifying everything to the barebones. The design also presents the content very well. Good job!
posted by arrowhead at 8:10 AM on October 12, 2008

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