NPR logo

They Don't Make Financial Crises Like They Used To

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/95111080/95236416" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
They Don't Make Financial Crises Like They Used To

Commentary

They Don't Make Financial Crises Like They Used To

They Don't Make Financial Crises Like They Used To

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/95111080/95236416" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Two young residents passed the time at a Hooverville shantytown in Washington, D.C., in 1932. MPI/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption MPI/Getty Images

Two young residents passed the time at a Hooverville shantytown in Washington, D.C., in 1932.

MPI/Getty Images

I keep hearing our current financial crisis compared to that of the 1930s, which I don't know that much about, though I did just reread The Grapes of Wrath to prepare for the challenges ahead.

The good news is that after the foreclosure, when we pack the truck, there's a way of folding Grandma so the kids won't even notice she's dead. I, myself, however would rather just die than take a pull off of Rose of Sharon's breast if it comes down to it.

Gee, this stuff is hard to follow. I don't think I even know how many zeros are in a trillion. But after listening to the candidates, I realized I can't count on the powers that be to explain the nature of the financial crisis, and it will be up to me to inform myself.

So I turned to It's A Wonderful Life for background on liquidity and solvency, which would have filled me with hope if I didn't have a bad feeling that we've already spent George and Mary Bailey's honeymoon funds.

Unfortunately, although Clarence the angel offers some lessons for these troubled times, our problem it seems stems from mortgage-backed securities, which are very complicated instruments that even greedy Mr. Potter wouldn't have understood well enough to go near.

You and I are about to invest $700 billion in them.

George Bailey jumped off a bridge, and Uncle Billy was driven to the brink of insanity over the loss of eight grand. So what do we learn? We're tougher than they were in the old days.

Lucky thing for me I have The Waltons television series on video. I showed it to my kids and told them they're going to have to wear overalls soon but that the only thing they have to fear is fear itself.

I don't want to be the one to spook the herd, but when I hear President George W. Bush say the government's measures require putting a significant amount of taxpayers' money on the line, and that it entails risk but they expect it'll eventually be paid back, I fear I do have fear.

It could only be scarier if he asked Colin Powell to present it to us using satellite photography.

Perhaps now, when our trust in him is so important, Bush wishes he hadn't been so abusive of it before. That happened to Jim Bob Walton once. He said he didn't burn down the woodshed, but he did, so the family couldn't trust him after that. He didn't ask for $700 billion in the next episode either.

I hope the candidates saw that one.

We no longer support commenting on NPR.org stories, but you can find us every day on Facebook, Twitter, email, and many other platforms. Learn more or contact us.