I hate dealing with finances—bookkeeping, accounting, investing, all of it—I’d rather be doing just about anything else, maybe even a root canal. And I’m naturally skeptical of the ability of any big bureaucracy to run anything well. So when Congress started debating a $700-billion taxpayer funded bailout, I wanted to know what the heck was going on despite my distaste for all things financial. The Federal government did a horrible job of explaining the financial crisis so I turned to the Internet.
I began by listening to The Giant Pool of Money from This American Life. The episode explained, in plain English, the role that mortgages played in the current financial crisis. They did a second episode, Another Frightening Show About the Economy, which described what happened beyond mortgages to bring the current financial crisis to a head.
For regular updates, I began listening to NPR Planet Money podcasts. They’ve done a great job explaining credit default swaps in language I can understand, and why the Ted Spread, LIBOR, and Treasury Bond Rates are more important than the Dow Jones Industrial Average for tracking this financial crisis.
Planet Money turned me on to the Baseline Scenario, a blog by two economists and a law student who bring a more learned and global perspective with their analysis. They explain some details of what’s happening in plain English. Have a look at their take on how the financial crisis unfolded and policy proposals to deal with it.
I also listen to AMP Marketplace, a daily program devoted to business and financial news. They’re closely following the financial crisis—why it happened, how it affects everyday folks, and what is being done about it.
With my new understanding of how we got here, I started thinking that Congress did the right thing in passing the taxpayer-funded bailout.
Then I came across bailoutsleuth.com whose posts point out that sections relating to salaries are blacked out in the contracts that govern firms hired to help manage the bailout.
Now I’m back where I started—not sure that the Federal government is the one to get us out of this mess. At least I have a better understanding of what has taken place. If you’re like me and don’t follow Wall Street or the Financial Markets, the resources that I listed are a good place to start your education.
If you come across great Internet sources that explain the financial crisis in plain English, please share them with us.