Inside the Meltdown

I just finished watching Frontline’s Inside the Meltdown on Thirteen (NYC’S PBS station).  A lot of this information was not new to me.  Like most of us during this time we perused the news, very methodically, every day for the slightest change in polls.  But, suddenly, every day seemed to bring earth-shattering, tectonic-shifting gloom and doom.  Of the green kind.  Lehman Brothers. Washington Mutual, biggest bank failure.  The Dow crashes 775 points.  The front page of the New York Post.  Bank of America gobbling up Morgan Stanley.  Citigroup threatening to fail every day.  Bailout.  TARP.  Nationalization.  AIG.  Credit Default Swaps. Subprime Mortgages.  Deregulation.  McCain and the first debate.  The Commercial Paper Market???

It was surreal.  Worse, being located at the epicenter – there was no detachment, no relief from news of the onslaught of the crumbling economy.  And strangely, there was sympathy, on my part, for the Wall Street cats.  When the Dow failed in reaction to the bad news (TARP) out of Washington; for some reason, I found myself siding with them and asking Washington: “What are you doing?!” Odd.  I am not a financial guru.

As close to it all as we, New Yorkers, are to the quagmire, a lot of people were/are not getting the same information we were getting on PBS and NPR here in the Big Apple.  My parents in California were looking to me for information, my sister in college in Massachusetts asked me the daily economic news, my friends asked, my more far flung relatives asked. I felt like a war correspondent.  It bewildered me that a good deal of this news never makes it out of this town.  It still confuses me that the Las Vegas airport had no “newsy magazines.”  Actually, I have been in quite a few airports offering sub-par reading material.  ‘Okay, so you don’t have The New Yorker, The New Republic, The Atlantic, or The Economist.  But, no Time or Newsweek?  Really?!?!‘ When I ask at the counter about these magazines, the clerk looks at me like I’m speaking Farsi.  Heck, there’s not even anything from the other side like National Review.  Nothing, but People and Cosmo.  Gaudy imagery to soften your brain.

Are people getting different news according to their geographic region?  If so, that frightens me.  And worse, accordingly, voter information must be low.  And it is (case and point: November 5, 2008).  Every citizen should be able to spell out the basic narrative of the economic collapse.  Sadly, I know people cannot do it.  So, it confused me when my sister asked me how I knew all this, and I simply thought, ‘I live in New York.’

So, for those of you who don’t live in New York.  Frontline is putting their show, Inside the Meltdown on the net for your viewing pleasure.  I hope a lot of people watch it.  Especially, people who voted Republican in November.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/meltdown/

And, for an interview on The Leonard Lopate Show this afternoon, with the producer of the show and a New Yorker writer about the episode: http://www.wnyc.org/shows/lopate/episodes/2009/02/17/segments/123931

And for a case study, The Times did about Washington Mutual: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/28/business/28wamu.html?_r=1&scp=11&sq=washington%20mutual&st=cse

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