Fiscal Cliffhangers

Stories of economies on the brink by Michael Lewis, Jon Krakauer, Benjamin Kunkel, and others.
5 stories

President Obama's game of financial chicken with the Republican party isn't the first time a nation's economy has headed toward the precipice.

In a 2010 Vanity Fair article, Michael Lewis arrived in Greece, the country hit hardest by the euro crisis. “In addition to its roughly $400 billion (and growing) of outstanding government debt, the Greek number crunchers had just figured out that their government owed another $800 billion or more in pensions," Lewis reported. "Add it all up and you got about $1.2 trillion, or more than a quarter-million dollars for every working Greek. Against $1.2 trillion in debts, a $145 billion bailout was clearly more of a gesture than a solution. And those were just the official numbers; the truth is surely worse.”

If there was anybody who should have avoided the mortgage catastrophe, it was I,” Edmund Andrews admitted in an essay from The New York Times Magazine. “As an economics reporter for The New York Times, I have been the paper’s chief eyes and ears on the Federal Reserve for the past six years. I watched Alan Greenspan and his successor, Ben S. Bernanke, at close range. … But in 2004, I joined millions of otherwise-sane Americans in what we now know was a catastrophic binge on overpriced real estate and reckless mortgages.”

You are by nature an optimist, a happy idiot,” Byliner Plus author Jon Krakauer wrote in a 2010 essay how we get by despite impending doom. “No personal disaster or run of bad luck has ever shaken your faith that the march of time brings progress. You believe the wicked eventually get their due. You’re confident that truth will come to light. You’ve never doubted that a hundred years hence, the world will be a better place. Until lately. Lately you’ve found yourself wondering if the end of civilization might be at hand, and you are not alone in your apprehension.”

From the Web

Like Malbec for Porsches

In Argentina, you can’t import goods without exporting something of equal value. That led to a weird economy—and it’s in danger of collapse.

From the Web

My Personal Credit Crisis

How love, subprime lenders and willful self-delusion led one man, an economics reporter, to the brink of foreclosure.

From the Web

Beware of Greeks Bearing Bonds

As Wall Street hangs on the question “Will Greece default?,” the author heads for riot-stricken Athens, and for the mysterious Vatopaidi monastery, which brought down the last government, laying bare the country’s economic insanity. But beyond a $1.2 trillion debt (roughly a quarter-million dollars for each working adult), there is a more frightening deficit. After systematically looting their own treasury, in a breathtaking binge of tax evasion, bribery, and creative accounting spurred on by Goldman Sachs, Greeks are sure of one thing: they can’t trust their fellow Greeks.
Oct 2010
By Exclusive

The Sisyphean Paradox

How do we reconcile our relative comfort and a sense of society’s–or the world’s–impending doom?

Jul 2010
From the Web

World without Oil, Amen

Think $4 for a gallon of gas is screwing with your summer? Wait until you hear about something called peak oil. According to a growing number of experts—and we’re not just talking about conspiracy wackos here—we’re on the brink of an economic crisis that could lead to, well, the end of life as we know it. Benjamin Kunkel investigates just how scary things are about to become.

Jul 2008