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Prologue

Former Bush Administration official David Frum explains a very surprising fact about Bush's economic failure, as it relates to health care. Frum is a regular contributor to the radio show Marketplace.

Act One: Fire Sale in Kansas City

David and Chana buy a toxic asset, from a guy named Wit Solberg, who used to work on Wall Street and now helps small banks who've been saddled with toxic assets. Turns out...it's hard to buy a toxic asset.

Prologue

Host Ira Glass explains how the Planet Money team spent a thousand dollars of their own money to buy a toxic asset, and introduces Planet Money reporters David Kestenbaum and Chana Joffe-Walt. Their stories about "Toxie" have appeared on the Planet Money podcast and daily public radio news shows, and are collected here for the first time, into one epic, Dickensian tale.

Act Two: Investigation Report #2

Alex Blumberg and NPR correspondent (and "Planet Money" reporter) Dave Kestenbaum examine what went wrong with the credit ratings agencies. When all these financial instruments that brought down our economy—the mortgage backed securities, the derivatives—were originally issued, the rating agencies (Standard and Poors, Moody's and Fitch) gave many of these things their top rating of triple-A.

Act Two: 2013

The dramatic conclusion to Laura and Alex's search for information about Intellectual Ventures, and the inventor they claimed they were helping, Chris Crawford. The story turns out to be different than the one Intellectual Ventures originally told.

Act One: 2011

NPR reporter Laura Sydell and This American Life producer/Planet Money co-host Alex Blumberg tell the story of Intellectual Ventures, which is accused of being the largest of the patent trolls. Executives at Intellectual Ventures insist they are not trolls, but rather, promoters of innovation.

Act One: The Collapse Of The Us Banking System Explained In Just 39 Minutes

Alex Blumberg and Adam Davidson tackle a very tough subject: Trying to explain exactly what a bank is and does. They talk to a number of experts about what has gone wrong in banking, but not before bringing us all up to speed on some banking basics, like understanding a bank balance sheet, and a bank's assets and liabilities, and the squishy business of what banks say about their balance sheets compared to what they are.Alex and Adam walk us step by step through the complications of the US government buying up bad assets from banks, and explain why, when it comes to footing the bill, the government might just prefer to not be in charge of the very banks it is having taxpayers bailout.

Act One

Chana Joffe-Walt spent six months reporting on the rise in people on disability. She spends time in Hale County, Alabama, talking to the only general practitioner in town, the main person who okays so many of the county's residents for disability.

Act Two

Chana Joffe-Walt continues her story about the phenomenal rise in disability payments over the last 30 years, since President Bill Clinton signed legislation pledging to "end welfare as we know it." Turns out, two private sector groups have really contributed to the growing disability roles. One is a group of people you'd probably expect, the other is a shock.

Act One: Mister Fix It

Richard Ravitch has helped fix three governmental crises, including when New York City nearly went bankrupt in 1975. What's changed, to make it so much harder for him to solve the state's current financial crisis? Host Ira Glass reports.