On Monday, our own Sam Stein offered readers a glimpse into the past, examining the lawmakers and economists who saw, in the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, a looming economic disaster. Sam's story gives credit where credit is due -- identifying the key players who got it right. And as we continue to cover the economic recovery, this will continue to be a constant theme here: beating back against the "no one saw it coming" conventional wisdom by honoring those that did get it right, and shining a light on those who, even now, might be getting it wrong.
But beyond that, there is also the street-level view of our economic problems, which from my perspective looks like an immensely complicated system that ran aground on a combination of greed and its own unaccountable complexities. There is, I think, an urgent need to lend more people a more fundamental insight into the ideas and interactions that shape the financial sector of the economy. Yet the conventional business media is still awash in jargon-spewing drones that only too recently indulged in the sale of a bogus boom time that was never supposed to end. Even post-collapse, their reporting is filled with cliquish eye-rolling and facile flash-card analysis.
There is an urgent need to simply decode, define, and explain the basics to more people. For while it's one thing to know, for example, that there were lawmakers who fought against the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, knowing what the Glass-Steagall Act was enacted to do is another thing entirely.
So rather than take the position that 'the plebes will never understand our divine Wall Street arcana,' we're going to take responsibility for laying out and explaining basic ideas. What's needed to forestall the next economic crisis, in my opinion, is a public that's well-armed with knowledge, about even basic things. And I figured, what the hell, if I can learn this stuff, anyone can.
So, we shall be launching a series of videos, featuring HuffPo's Business editor Julie Satow and myself, in which Julie patiently -- VERY PATIENTLY -- explains what happened in the economy these past few years, what the basic terms you hear bandied about mean, what key laws and regulations do, and how the whole thing connects. And hopefully, our readership and commenters can make suggestions, offer insight, and ask questions of their own.
This project is also the first collaboration between the Huffington Post and the American News Project, who have long been dedicated to public-interest journalism, and who have generously agreed to point cameras at me as I struggle to learn.
Julie and I shot a two-part pilot episode to begin with, which is posted below and which we hope you enjoy. The topic is Credit Derivatives. Yes, that might not be the ideal place to begin. To borrow from Jarvis Cocker: I don't know why but I had to start it somewhere, so I started there.
[WATCH PART ONE.]
[WATCH PART TWO.]