If you haven’t seen HBO VICE’s documentary on the 2008 financial crisis yet, it’s definitely worth watching. Is everything in the documentary true? It’s hard to say, but my overall impression is that it appears to be an unbiased look at the events as they occurred. Of course, nobody wants to look bad, so there is probably some revisionist history going on (especially a decade after the fact), but I found it to be believable. At the very least, it gave me a different perspective to consider.
I love this type of exposure documentary because it offers so much more information than what’s fed to us by the media. You’ll hear accounts from then-Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, former N.Y. Federal Reserve President Timothy Geithner, and former Chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke, as well as Warren Buffett, George W. Bush, all the CEOs of the big banks, and many others who were involved or had a front-row seat.
Spoiler alert: Wait until you get to the part where John McCain instigates a publicity stunt by suspending his failing campaign against Barack Obama and calls for a meeting at the White House to discuss the crisis. That’s some inside commentary you probably haven’t heard before!
It was fascinating to see just how interconnected all the banking systems are with each other and of course with Wall St. When you throw in mega-players like the multi-national banking and insurance group ING, it gets complicated fast. Even though many of the players said they believe in the free market, they also said they didn’t feel they could risk letting it play out 100% on its own.
Another thing that struck me after watching this documentary is how easy it is to villainize people in the federal government. The fact that we are so far removed from them and rarely have any kind of personal contact makes it less likely for us to see them as normal people just trying to do their job.
I really felt like this was the case during the financial crisis – or at least that’s the way it was portrayed in the documentary. It seemed like they were mostly regular people trying to do the best they could during a crisis situation, and that, for the most part, they had good intentions in mind. These people had tremendous pressure to deal with, and they didn’t have a playbook to follow. They had to make it up as they went along. It’s no exaggeration to say that they had to do all this with the potential collapse of the entire world’s banking system at stake. No small task!
Maybe I am being naïve but being in crisis mode actually brought out the best in some people, to the point that they put aside their political differences and actually tried to do what was right for the country.
Could or should the financial crisis have gone any other way? You be the judge. Watch the documentary wherever you find HBO online, or click here to watch it on YouTube.