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Act Two: Investigation Report #2

Alex Blumberg and NPR correspondent (and "Planet Money" reporter) Dave Kestenbaum examine what went wrong with the credit ratings agencies. When all these financial instruments that brought down our economy—the mortgage backed securities, the derivatives—were originally issued, the rating agencies (Standard and Poors, Moody's and Fitch) gave many of these things their top rating of triple-A.

Act One: The Mod Squad

Reporter Chris Arnold visits a foreclosure prevention event to find out the painful truth about the mortgage crisis: 90% of foreclosures are being enforced by servicing companies not because it helps the banks to foreclose, and not because home owners aren't interested in renegotiating their loan terms, but because there's just no system in place to handle the sheer volume of loans that need help.

Prologue

Host Ira Glass notes the sub-industry in journalism right now of reporting anything that looks like a sign of the recession. He then goes on to list a handful of his own favorites, including a dentist who's seen an increase in broken teeth from grinding, and a decrease in shark attacks.

Act One: Is The Condo Half Empty, Or Is The Condo Half Full?

Ira goes to Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood to talk to some condo owners who are in a precarious situation—since the housing market crash, the developer who renovated and sold them their units—Haso Meseljevic—has all but disappeared. He's in foreclosure on half of their building's units.

Act Two: Unbreaking The Bank

NPR reporter and Planet Money contributor Chana Jaffe-Walt reports this story of what it really looks like when a bank fails and is taken over by the FDIC. She talks to the former employees and a handful of FDIC staff about the Friday night when the Bank of Clark County was interrupted and closed by 80 FDIC employees, who had every step of their secret operation down to a science.

Act One: Hey Mister Dj

For NPR's Adam Davidson, dropping out of college is the worst thing any young person can do in this economy. So when Adam's favorite cousin DJ does just that, Adam brings in a professor of economics from Georgetown University to help persuade DJ to get back on the right track.

Prologue

Host Ira Glass plays clips from TV in a recent senate hearing and talks about how confusing the current banking crisis is.  But fortunately today, we have the team that brought us our show that explained the mortgage crisis a year ago, back to explain entire the banking system in 40 minutes.

Act One: The Collapse Of The Us Banking System Explained In Just 39 Minutes

Alex Blumberg and Adam Davidson tackle a very tough subject: Trying to explain exactly what a bank is and does. They talk to a number of experts about what has gone wrong in banking, but not before bringing us all up to speed on some banking basics, like understanding a bank balance sheet, and a bank's assets and liabilities, and the squishy business of what banks say about their balance sheets compared to what they are.Alex and Adam 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.

Act Two: Clean Up Crew

Not everyone hates the idea of "toxic assets." Reporter Lisa Chow goes to New Jersey to follow two guys on their quest to clean up some of America's bad mortgages—by buying them, and going straight to the homes themselves to have a look at how dire the situation really is.

Act Four: The Fifteen Trillion Dollar Dismal Science Project

Our crack economics duo, Producer Alex Blumberg and NPR International Economics Correspondent Adam Davidson, on how a dead, slutty, elitist British man, John Maynard Keynes, is about to take over the American economy. President Obama's new stimulus plan relies on Keynes'; theory, which says that government can spend its way out of a downward economic spiral.

Act One: Hard Times

Studs Terkel, the Chicago reporter who recorded oral histories of ordinary Americans, died last week. We assembled a collection of his work from his Hard Times radio series, in which people talk about their experiences during the Depression—how everyone simultaneously became poor, regardless of their class.

Act Four: The Not-for-profit Motive

To deal with the financial crisis, our own government has also had to reinvent itself, with questionable consequences. This American Life producer Alex Blumberg and NPR's financial reporter Adam Davidson talk to Brad Setser, an economist at the Council on Foreign Relations who used to work at the U.S. Treasury.

Act One: The Day The Market Died

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.

Act Two: Out Of The Hedges And Into The Woods

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.

Act Three: Swap Cops

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 ofthe way we didn't regulate a lot of the toxic financial products we're hearing about now.

Act Two: Now You SEC Me, Now You Don't

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.

Prologue

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.

Act One

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.

Act Two

Alex and Adam's story continues.

Act Two: The Plan

American cities have gone through a massive wave of gentrification in the last few decades. To some people, it's not a natural ebb and flow of the real estate market, but a plot, by rich, mainly white people, to take over the neighborhoods of poor, mainly black people. This American Life producer Jon Jeter reports on how, in neighborhoods all over the country, the plot has a name, "The Plan," and most people you talk to know about it.

Act Two: The Race For Second Place

Thanh Tan was a TV reporter in Boise, Idaho, when her boss passed along what seemed like a hot news tip: A sex offender was working with kids at a local ice rink, as a hockey referee. But when she looked into it, she found out the crime was more than a decade old.