What's Wall Street Got To Do With It?

If the Occupy Wall Street movement has made it onto your radar screen but you aren't quite sure what the fuss is about, here are some documentaries you might be interested in viewing.

Frontline's February 17, 2009 broadcast of Inside the Meltdown might be a good place to start. It examines the 2008 collapse of Bear Stearns and the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, focusing on the response of the Federal Reserve, the White House, Congress, and the Wall Street banks.

The October 20, 2009 broadcast of Frontline's The Warning approaches the crisis from an earlier time period. It begins with a brief look at the legacy of Ayn Rand as manifested in the policies of Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1987 to 2007. The crux of the documentary is the attempt by Brooksley Born, Clinton appointed chairperson of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) from 1996 to 1999, to regulate the derivatives market. A derivatives lawyer with a stellar reputation, who was very concerned with the new unregulated, non-transparent financial instruments known as over-the-counter derivatives (OTCs). Her 1998 attempt at regulating this $25+ trillion market was met with extreme push back from then U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, Deputy Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, SEC chair Arthur Levitt and members of a heavily lobbied Congress. Her attempt was thwarted, the market was left unregulated, and she resigned from the CFTC. The video clips of her testimony before Congress are eye opening especially when juxtaposed with the derivatives induced near meltdown of the hedge fund, Long Term Capitol Management (LTCM) six weeks later.

Danny Schecter's Plunder: The Crime of Our Time is also worth taking a look at. His documentary approaches the 2008 economic meltdown from a white collar crime perspective. This film breaks down the crisis into three overlapping components: a) mortgage fraud; b) racketeering and Wall Street's bundling of mortgage backed securities; and c) speculation schemes and hedge fund gambling. He interviews former insiders within the financial industry as well as people who have lost their homes through predatory lending. Themes of Security Exchange Commission (SEC) negligence, media complicity in blaming duped homeowners rather than irresponsible lenders, the "financialization" of the U.S. economy, and the trend to consume and borrow rather than produce and save are also discussed. Video clips of amateur musicians performing their creative works responding to the financial crisis give a unique and humorous touch to this probing documentary.

Finally, put yourself on hold for Charles H. Ferguson's Inside Job which won a well deserved academy award for best documentary last year. The film takes a deep look at the systemic risks taken by the financial sector in our society. It looks at the trend of deregulation beginning in the 1980s, the housing bubble, the financial crisis of 2008, the lack of accountability, and our current situation as of 2009. The production value is top notch, the narrative is clear and illuminating, and the interviews pack a wallop. I especially appreciated the examination of elite academic professors in the field of Economics.

I am still in the process of educating myself about the financial meltdown of 2008, the state of our current economy, and the possible paradigm shifts "we the people" might want to consider moving forward. Are there any documentaries or movies you would recommend to shine some perspective on these topics?

Written by evi on October 20, 2011


Anonymous on October 21, 2011


Capitalism, a Love Story ; and Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (two additional DVD documentaries on these topics)!


Thank you for the information and resources, I had several people ask me what's the "big deal" now Instead of me explaining it from my perspective, they can see it from others perspective.


Yes, both of these are definitely worth taking a look at. Interestingly, Michael Moore, who made the film Capitalism: A Love Story, was just interviewed on Democracy Now! (www.democracynow.org) this morning. He was on his way to Wall Street to meet with CNBC on the steps of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). Apparently, CNBC cancelled the interview because the NYSE didn't want Michael on their steps.

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