Thursday, February 12, 2009

"House of Cards" on CNBC

Tonight at 8 and midnight, Saturday night at 11 p.m., and other days, CNBC shows House of Cards, a remarkably clear overview of the financial debacle that has put us all in this fine mess.

The introduction shows an e-mail, written in 2006, from (presumably) some a greedy Wall Street financier who writes, "Let's hope we're all wealthy and retired by the time this house of cards collapses."

House of Cards, reported by David Faber, begins with a walk through a blighted Florida neighborhood, where cockroaches hang from doors, and clouds of mosquitoes hover over pea-green pools. A sheriff who has just turned out yet another family recalls the words of one little boy: "How is Santa Claus going to find me - now?"

The broadcast heads out west to the crucible of the mortgage boom and where the idea of subprime mortgages began - Orange County, Califonia. Just when you start to think that everyone who got sucked into the subprime mess was a greedy moron, you meet Cynthia Simons of Compton, a ready mark for an unscrupulous mortgage broker who duped her into a mortgage that was not right for her.

Faber talks to many people who were involved in the subprime boom and its collapse. There's also a probing interview with former Fed chief Alan Greenspan. Faber even travels to Norway to find a town nearly ruined by an exotic security specimen called a collateralized debt obligation. You'd think mea culpas would abound, but he uncovers none: Even Greenspan admits there was nothing he could do to avert one of the great economic crises of modern history.

Because this superb explanation debuts on Thursday night prime-time, you might miss it. But be sure to see it at another time. It would be a terrible shame if you don’t, because we need to see and absorb cautionary accounts like this - one whose authors had their eyes wide open and asked the right questions.

House of Cards is the single best account of the collapse I've seen.

It will be repeated on Sunday, February 15th at 9PM and Monday, February 16th (President's Day) at 8AM, 8PM and 12AM.