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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.