Sunday, October 31, 2010

Housing Bomb

Imagine you are twentythree years old. You are working for a big Wall Street investment firm. You are being paid a high six figure salary. Your job is to pick and promote stocks you think will result in a sizeable profit for your clients and generate enormous fees for your employer. The problem is, you don't have a clue about what you are doing. You have never taken so much as a course in accounting let alone run your own business. You are terrified of being found out. You feel like a fake. Then, you discover that the whole office and potentially most of the building is filled with people just like you. Thus is the sobering reality laid out by Michael Lewis in his first book, Liar's Poker. The author had hoped his report of real life in the trenches would serve as a waring regarding the precarious, fragile, and wreckless nature of essentially the heart of capitalism in the United States. He was wrong.

Fast forward only a few short years and the entire U.S. economy is working its way through a financial catastrophe on par with the Great Depression. Some economists believe that we have yet to truly reach the bottom. It came as no surprise to Michael Lewis that Wall Street was the driving force.

In his excellent new book, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, Michael Lewis engagingly lays out the steps to the creation of the housing bubble and the colorful players who profited emensely from it as well as those who lost sums of money whose mass could equal that of a small planet. By far, this is the best book for understanding how this financial catastrophe happened in the first place. It also affords readers a chilling glimpse into the wildly irresponsible, ignorant, arrogant, and uttlerly greedy nature of Wall Street. Read it, and you will quickly understand why investors have lost faith in the financial markets and are buying up as much gold as they can get their hands. Speaking of which, do you have any old or unused jewelry you might want to sell?

Do you really own your house?
NPR Fresh Air Interview with Gretchen Morgenson

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