“In 2008, the fate of the world’s economy was decided in a matter of weeks”.
Too Big To Fail, HBO Films, 2011.
For anyone concerned about the economic thin-ice the U.S. and the global economy are on, you may enjoy the “trifecta” of films detailing the financial collapse in 2008, which lead to the deepest and most damaging recession since the 1930’s.
A year ago “House of Cards”, a CNBC documentary focused on the residential sub-prime mortgage debacle, backed by Wall Street with the full and implicit approval of congress.
It details the repeal of the very protections that the U.S. economy had enjoyed for 70 years: And how it led to the collapse. In 1999 the very powerful financial services lobby headed by Robert Rubin (Citigroup and Clinton Economic Advisor) pushed congress to pass the Banking Reform Act of 1999 which repealed the Glass-Steagall Act (or the lynchpin of the Banking Reform Act of 1933).
Commercial Banks (community banks that offer mortgages and business loans) and Investment Banks (Goldman Sachs, Bear Stearns, Lehman Bros.) were now able to invest in each other which lead to establishing funds which bought Collateralized Mortgage Obligations, of course considered safe due to the un-Newtonian expectation that Real Estate would always continue to appreciate. It goes on to detail how the greed from Wall Street helped mortgage companies innovate highly risky mortgage vehicles, and along with a good dose of social engineering (“every person has the right to own a home”), Wall Street sowed its own demise.
A highly effective documentary narrated by Matt Damon features interviews with dozens of politicians, members of the U.S. Treasury, the Federal Reserve, International and U.S. Banks, the I.M.F., University Professors, and many others. Many of these people had a direct impact on the collapse.The most common reaction to this film is incredulity, anger, resentment and passionate debate, no matter what your political stripes. One thing all sides do agree on was the lack of control by all parties and a total disregard for the warning signs, most likely due to political expediency and greed.
TOO BIG TO FAIL, Now on HBO.
HBO’s telling of Andrew Sorkin’s 600 page book provides a highly compelling, concise even-handed story featuring a star-studded presentation. If there is an antagonist in the story, it is Lehman Bros. CEO, Richard Fuld (James Woods). However, the real antagonist is the system and how close it came to complete collapse.
“If they don’t stop this crisis, soon there will be no milk on the shelves”.
The story concludes mentioning the after-effects (in which we are all very much living) and creates a tremendous sense of foreboding, as the decisions made in this crisis created something much larger and more dangerous than existed before the crisis: Larger banks that are too big to save. In this age of austerity measures causing widespread riots in Europe, the question in every viewers mind is “what would happen if there’s a systemic bank run, and how safe are we… really?”.