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Frontline: Money, Power and Wall Street

May 22, 2012

The ward-winning PBS series Frontline premiers a new show documenting the apex of power in American life in which Wall Street gets bailed out, Main Street doesn’t and the terrible implications that this had for democracy in the United States.

The show documents the largest single sector in the American economy, double the size of manufacturing sector. With the power to make and break fortunes, 11 trillion dollars of American net worth has been lost in the recent recession along with 8.5 million jobs. Calls were made for the prosecution of the banking sector, although ultimately the Occupy Wall Street movement took hold on the streets if not necessarily in the courts.

Hearings held since 2008 reveal a regulatory system that was inappropriate to oversee the modern financial system and financial vehicles that appear to defy explanation. The Frontline programme seeks to explain the origins of the crisis and the efforts by financiers to reduce risk in the system.

The show interviews reporters, analysis and the very instigators of the financial vehicles that came to cause so much inadvertent damage to the world ‘s economic system, as the JP Morgan team elected to take a model that had worked previously in the agriculture market and applied it to the financial market to reduce exposure and risk to the bank.

The show attempts to explain the new financial vehicles that led ultimately to the collapse of the  markets and of entire companies. Risk was traded and it fuelled a credit boom. The acronyms and financial data remains boggling for those of us not involved but the show does its best to explain it in easy to consume language.

In this it mostly succeeds, but the whole point perhaps is that the confusing element is essential to the reason that that occurred in the first place, allowing for sub prime market deals to be bundled together and sold around the world, ensuring that when the crash occurred it hit places that had no connection to their origins.

The documentary covers where things went wrong, where we are now, and what is yet to come. As always, Frontline is fascinating and insightful and makes for recommended viewing when it screens on May 28 on Sky Channel 166.

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