Host Ira Glass talks with Andy Woolworth, an executive vice president in charge of new product development at the world's largest manufacturer of mousetraps, Woodstream Corporation, in Lititz, Pennsylvania. About once a month, Andy is contacted by someone who thinks he's invented a better mousetrap.
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Looked at one way, the current flailing economy is a victim of invention—Wall Street invention. Investors and banks and brokers created all sorts of stuff the world would've been better off without.
Host Ira Glass goes to Union Square, a 15-minute subway ride from Wall Street, where it doesn't look like we're on the edge of an economic abyss.
Alex Blumberg and Adam Davidson recount the 36-hour period, two weeks ago, when the credit markets froze. Plus, what it's like now for businesses to get short-term loans, and how the hardship is spreading to every sector of the economy.
One more confusing financial product that's bringing down the global economy. And one of way to think about this product is this: If bad mortgages got the financial system sick, this next thing you're about to hear about, helped spread the sickness into an epidemic.
Ira talks with Michael Greenberger, a former commodities regulator, who tells the story of when it was decided not to regulate credit default swaps. And how that decision was emblematic of the way we didn't regulate a lot of the toxic financial products we're hearing about now.
TAL producer Alex Blumberg reports on a peculiar Wall Street practice with a dirty-sounding name—naked short selling—and how one of Wall Street's main regulators, the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, doesn't seem all that interested in regulating anything. (20 minutes) Alex's story is also going to be on NPR's new Planet Money podcast...which came about after our Giant Pool of Money show, the show Alex did on the mortgage;crisis with NPR's Adam Davidson.
Host Ira Glass talks with an NPR business and economics correspondent about two gatherings he attended—one at the Ritz Carlton and one at a community college in Brooklyn. The first was an awards dinner for finance professionals who created the mortgage-based financial instruments that nearly brought down the global economic system.
This American Life producer Alex Blumberg teams up with NPR's Adam Davidson for the entire hour to tell the story—the surprisingly entertaining story—of how the U.S. got itself into a housing crisis. They talk to people who were actually working in the housing, banking, finance and mortgage industries, about what they thought during the boom times, and why the bust happened.
Alex and Adam's story continues.
In the late 1960s, a California TV repairman named Bob Nelson joined a group of enthusiasts who believed they could cheat death with a new technology called cryonics. But freezing dead people so scientists can reanimate them in the future is a lot harder than it sounds.