As someone who has really enjoyed Frontline, I found this episode came up more than short. The crisis is not hard to understand and your attempts to personify it did not really increase that understanding. I suppose you can shuck and jive by claiming you wanted to give it a human angle, but really. Focusing on the people who denied the problem, didn't see the problem and ultimately mis-read the scope of the problem is not doing justice to the biggest issue of the last 20 and next ten years.
There were people who saw this coming. Those people continue to predict, quite accurately what is going to happen. Of course since they don't control the money, they don't have a voice. I suppose I had hoped that your program would give them a voice, but you didn't. Instead you concentrated on the criminals, and I don't use that word lightly, who denied lied and obfuscated about the issue as long as they could.
Its all about leverage and trust. Funny how Frank and Dodd never mentioned that. Probably because they are too stupid to know. Sheila Bair is even worse. Her ignorance, and silence before this came to be public knowledge is shocking. Even now she talks out of both sides of her mouth in a way so obvious it would do Mr Bernanke proud.
Leverage and trust. You cant restore the later, without reducing the former. The losses have been made. All we are arguing over now is who gets the bill.
San Diego, ca
Thank you for your excellent documentary. What I believe is missed is the uncovering of corruprtion within our government that allowed this to happen in the first place. Donations made to specific Senators and Congress Reps that coincides with the passing of legislation that allowed deregulation. It is odd that in the face of this crisis Washington hasn't investigated themselves. I find it almost hilarious that while some of our fine leaders scold CEO's for bonuses at their hearings these self-annointed saints are the very ones taking donations from the same Banks. Silly me to think a good old self-investigation is too much to ask. The public needs to demand it!
Missing completely from this excellent program was the urging of the Democrats, Dodd and Frank and also ACORN (with Obama directly involved), for banks and Fanny Mae and Freddy Mack to loan to people who could not pay back. The problem started with the Carter administration, and was made much worse during the Clinton years. And, Bush didn't do anything about it! Why was all of this omitted?
I have a copy of an article from September 30, 1999 by Steven A. Holmes from The New York Times titled: "Fannie Mae Eases Credit to Aid Mortgage Lending" where it states: "Fannie Mae... has been under increasing pressure from the Clinton Administration to expand mortgage loans amoung low and moderate income people and felt pressure from stock holders to maintain its phenomenal growth in profits."
The article continues a couple of paragraphs down "In moving, even tentatively, into this new area of lending, Fannie Mae is taking on significantly more risk, which may not pose any difficulties during flush economic times. But the government-subsidized corporation may run into trouble in an econimic downturn, prompting a government rescue similar to that of the savings and loan industry in the 1980's."
There is no question in my mind that the Democrats, and no one else, has full ownership into this financial crisis that has spread over the entire world! And, Obama, with this connections with ACORN, was right in the middle of it.
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Thank you for a nice succinct overview of the financial meltdown. As somebody who was following the economic news, much of the content was not new, but it is always interesting to hear the first-hand interviews of those who were involved.
Like some other respondents have commented, I would like to see a follow-up that elaborates on the root cause of the problem: Regulations that enabled credit swapping, home ownership entitlement, (causes of) housing bubble, etc. from multiple perspectives (legislators, analysts, (investment) bankers, ordinary homeowners (that willingly participated in the housing bubble), etc.
Like most American "Baby Bommers", I supported and trusted the American System and Doctrine of saving and investing in our country and for the American Dream of personal retirement that would allow me and my family to live a modest, yet socirtally responsible life of volunteerism and charity to others.
But, as all Americans, my Trust and American Dream has been exploited and destroyed by those whom we Trusted because of their personal and insatiable Arrogance, Ego, and Greed as well as their Lies.
Permitted and encouraged by the Federal Government and the political party in charge of the country for the past eight years, I have been betrayed by those for whom I had total faith.
My American Dream that I instilled our children as they grew to adults now seems to be a joke. And my faith in the System for our son and daughter and own their familes-to-be is nearly shattered beyond reasonable hope.
In reporting the details of the JP Morgan acquisition of Bear Stearns, Frontline reported that Hank Paulson said: "No, I want you to do it for $2 a share. We don't want anyone in America, particularly on Wall Street, to think that the government has a safety net for you whenever you need it. I want it to be so, so painful for any Bear Stearns shareholder that it's almost as if they went out of business." What was not mentioned in the program was that J.P. Morgan, faced with an outcry from Bear Stearns shareholders, ultimately increased the price they paid for Bear Stearns stock to $10 per share. I believe this important point should have been shared with Frontline viewers.
FRONTLINE's editors respond:
Time constraints prevented us from exploring the final resolution on the price paid by JPMorgan for Bear Stearns' stock. However, viewers interested in knowing more about the final cost of this transaction can find out more on companion timeline. See the March 24, 2008 entry.
This was a good start to a multi-part series on the phenomenon in which we now find ourselves. The need for in-depth exploration of what got us here and what we can do about it is clear; just reading the comments here shows how confused people are about how the financial system works. Establishing a timeline of the major events of the actual crisis point, which is what this show did, is just the beginning.
Your program on a consistant basis is so much better than anything else in television journalism that everything else pales by comparison. As newspapers cut back and the internet takes more control of how people get their news I believe in-depth reporting may be going the way of the horse and buggy.
The central point in Inside The Meltdown was that we were a hair's breath from a complete collapse of our economy.
My question to you is what does that mean and what would have happened if the FED and Treasury had not stepped in?? Every day there are more critical voices complaining about the bailouts and the stimulus..what would have happened if they did nothing?
New Lenox, Illinois
You only are looking at a part of the problem with Washington (DC) today. Consider the following exchange during a recent congressional hearing:
Congressman Alan Grayson: Are you familiar with the concept of capture when you are talking about regulation? What is that? Do you know that concept?
Harry Markopolos: Yes. It's basically when the regulator is in bed with the industry they purport to regulate and do not regulate the industry. In fact, they consider the industry the client, not the public citizens.
Congressman Alan Grayson: And have you seen that in action.
Harry Markopolos: Yes. At the Food and Drug Administration and at the SEC.
Now, perhaps FRONTLINE could take some time and look at the corruption within the FDA as it pertains to conflicts of interest among special government employees serving on advisory committees, leaks out of the FDA to newsletters, leaks out of the FDA to financial houses, and other travesties in which neither the Congress, the DOJ, nor HHS OIG have taken an interest.
Truly hope you expand upon this initial offering as you have missed a great deal of what truly transpired to create the mess we are in.
I realize we your crew are not professional traders and are thus dependent on the sources of your information to a great degree. One area where I would urge you to delve into is the role which unbridled "naked" short selling (aka, "failure-to-delivers" or simply 'FTDs) has played. If you begin to research this subject you will likely be temped to disbelieve the claims made regarding the degree of the systematic abuse involved, but don't dismiss these claims; instead verify their accuracy through face to face interviews with those who have been long sounding the alarm. An honest and in depth investigation will most certainly convince you that a number of very large hedge funds along with the proprietary trading arms of some of the most well known Wall Street brokerage houses, have been involved in a massive multi-year long campaign of outright thievery...simple counterfeiting to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars. Educate yourself especially regarding the implications of the Options Market Maker Exemption...also known as the Madoff exemption (Yes, that Madoff), whereby the creation of counterfeit "airshares" was made legal.
Best to you all,
A professional securities trader.
I get the feeling Frontline has received such an emotional response to this first episode it almost feels obligated to bring Part II: The Economic Meltdown. I hope Frontline pulls all the stops (this first episode had a lot of holes) and give us a show for the ages. As much as this is an disaster that's still unfolding, Americans need to know how the exact cause of why the economy teeters on the verge of the second depression - and how the powers that be are trying to prevent a total collapse.
A few months ago 60 minutes ran a pathetic twelve minute segment on the meltdown and I faulted them in an email on the superficiality of their coverage adding that they don't have to worry, if they wait lont enough FRONTLINE will do their dirty work for them. Well your report was an even GREATER disappointment. I knew the moment it was mentioned that it all started in early 2008 that your report wouldn't be much if any better. All you gave the viewing public was a slow motion replay of the bad stuff hitting the fan when the meltdown was something that was at least a decade or more in the making! What about the deregulation legislation that allowed it to happen? The lack of government oversight?! The credit rating agencies that were never brought to task?! Our legislators and regulators played a substantial role in this crisis and they are barely mentioned! Something else that I can't believe that hasn't been talked about is the savings and loan crisis! No lessons were learned from that and it alone has cost the American tax payer close to a trillion dollars. We're still paying for it! I guess you're receiving enough financial support from outside sources now that you just can't afford to tell the story that NEEDS to be told! It's a sad fact that (and your story on the meltdown is proof)PBS increasingly isn't the place to go for the truth.
... very interesting and thought provoking. Unfortunately, however, it presented only a one-sided perspective of the issue by neglecting to incorporate the opinions and expertise of fiscal conservatives. Nearly all of the individuals you had on the show -- from economists, to politicians and even reporters -- represent a liberal-leaning viewpoint, and in some cases -- e.g., Paul Krugman -- socialism. The only one missing was George Soros.
It's disappointing that a quality program such as yours would not present all sides of the issue.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
....I would like to see a follow-up piece that exposes the Ponzi scheme called central banking, fractional reserve lending rules and debt based money and it's impact on global finance. In other words - I would like to see you pull back the curtain and show that the Wizard is a fraud.