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Monday, October 6, 2008

“Then Mr. Mozilo offered everyone a breath mint.”

posted by on October 6 at 12:53 PM

You’d think I’d have more of a handle on the mortgage fiasco considering my family just lost a house—the house I was a teenager in—to foreclosure. But whenever I try to read in the paper about the collapse of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, I can’t figure out what the hell anyone’s talking about. The blizzard of terms loses me and, in the blizzard, the competing versions of events are impossible to sort out. For a while I stopped reading those stories because I just couldn’t make sense of them.

Then yesterday the New York Times published this piece on the front page. Couldn’t put it down. It is an orderly, gorgeously reported piece about the downfall of Fannie Mae based around an interview with the former chief executive Daniel H. Mudd and a bunch of other sources who are kept anonymous “to avoid legal repercussions.” The piece zooms in on when exactly it was that Mudd began to make the decisions that led to the great unraveling, and why he made them, and it fills you with a tense, fluttering sympathy.

Read it at least to that line I’ve put as the headline, which marks a turning point in the suspense—“Then Mr. Mozilo offered everyone a breath mint”—and see if you can stop.

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this kind of piece is why i hope traditional papers never are never replaced by blogs

Posted by mnm | October 6, 2008 1:01 PM

This past weekend the "This American Life" was pretty helpful. And it's free for podcast download!

Posted by meisha | October 6, 2008 1:12 PM

I said this in another thread, but you should definitely listen to This American Life's recent episode, "Another Frightening Show About The Economy":

Posted by Fnarf | October 6, 2008 1:12 PM

Meisha & Fnarf, I just listened to the TAL podcast while at the gym this morning, and it was the most depressing workout ever. The episode was a sort of follow-up to the one they did last spring on the mortgage crisis - Ep. 355, I think, available for purchase through the website.

Posted by Lucky | October 6, 2008 1:15 PM

“I’m not worried about Fannie and Freddie’s health, I’m worried that they won’t do enough to help out the economy,” the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, said at the time. “That’s why I’ve supported them all these years — so that they can help at a time like this.”

I'm really surprised that you linked this up here for the article doesn't seem point to Dubya or Sarah Palin as the main culprit in this mess. How can that be? Surely, Trig had some fault in all this.

No, the real asshole and culprit is Barney Frank and his lib buddies that refused to allow even the slightest bit of regulation on these hallowed institutions. (And that Franklin Raines fuck.) Always pushing for stronger new regulations on corporations but repealing those aimed at our great socialist mortgage insurance holes.

Posted by Will | October 6, 2008 1:23 PM

Yes, it's depressing, but it's important to understand why all this talk of "bailing out Wall Street while giving nothing for Main Street" is so idiotic. There is no dichotomy there; we NEED "Wall Street" (really, international banking) to make Main Street go. The "bailout" may not be enough, but the political cost of it, by ignorant nimrods intent on punishing those they believe are responsible, no matter what the cost, means that we'll never be able to fix it. We're just going to watch it go down.

Posted by Fnarf | October 6, 2008 1:24 PM

Pair the suggested article with This American Life's show, "Big Pool of Money" and suddenly, the entire mortgage mess/credit crisis/scary money stuff will make sense.

Here it is:

Posted by Gr8 | October 6, 2008 2:25 PM


Apparently, "being hip" and "understanding shit" interfere with each other.

Posted by RonK, Seattle | October 6, 2008 3:42 PM

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