In the following video, I attempted to present the same argument from a previous paper to the same audience, but in a different medium. I chose to “re-mediate” a poem that I wrote about the 2008 United States financial crisis, which was spurred by the collapse in the inflated housing price “bubble.” My intentions were to explain the complexity of the problem, whilst simultaneously arguing that there was one specific group of people who were most at fault for this disaster. Investment bankers essentially acquired massive amounts of subprime mortgages from lenders (banks), and then sorted these into categories by the risk associated with the repayment of the debt. The safest mortgages, rated AAA-A, were the least likely to default, but also yielded the lowest return. Then were the “O.K.” mortgages generally rated BBB, which were more risky but yielded a higher return. The remaining were not even rated, but yielded an extremely high return for one’s money. These investments would be paid only after all others had been, making them inherently the most risky. This grouping of mortgages became known as a Collateralized Debt Obligation (CDO). The shady investment bankers manipulated and convinced these lending institutions that housing prices would always be on the rise, thus allowing unqualified, “risky” candidates (prospective homeowners) to receive loans. Once the bubble burst, and housing values plummeted, this group of debtors could not repay their loans, thus worsening the problem.
The United States government initially responded by passing two pieces of legislation called Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA). More commonly known as the bailout and the stimulus, these two plans were essentially introduced as a way to first stabilize the economy and then reinvigorate it to spur GDP growth and employment. Many questioned the effectiveness of these two policies, saying that they did not directly address the problems that spurred the collapse. Yet, The Wall Street Transparency and Accountability Act of 2010 (WSTAA), which was part of a larger bill also passed by Congress, directly attacks these investment bankers and will attempt to bring to light the whole “shadow banking” industry by allowing the public to see what is being traded, and who is doing the trading. Housing prices to this day have not fully recovered, and many areas are still uniquely crippled as a result. But, there remains optimism that we as a nation have learned from our mistakes, and that this new legislation will prevent similar situations from happening in the future.
Here is the text of the poem to complement the above audio.
veiled by shadows
a plethora of actors
yields a financial web of complexity.
there was a time
when values reigned,
and hubristic decisions abounded.
Subprime covertly obscured as rational,
a naïve superfluity conceived
appreciation was imminent, like the sunrise each day.
yet assured by a thief
today is forever– a poor man’s belief.
undetected in the dark;
poison is ignorance plus greed.
with the speed of its creation,
the market deflated.
sleep seized, for miscues past.
through profound hardship
emerged Bailout and Stimulus,
misguided, ineffective recovery at best.
yet Consumer Protection demands transparency
from the Shadowy foe.
reserved hope, from faint illumination.