BY OLIVIA ARMSTRONG
Is Too Big to Fail the Cautionary Tale of Our Financial Future?
Prior to the 2008 collapse of the financial system, “subprime mortgage” wasn’t a term in the average American’s lexicon. But after the unravelling of investment banks Bear Sterns and, most famously, Lehman Brothers, Americans were given a brutal awakening about the consequences of living beyond one’s means — and the reason why the lenders they trusted let it happen: Banks were making too much money.
Based on Andrew Ross Sorkin’s non-fiction account of the same name, Too Big to Fail follows the days leading up to the biggest economic crash since the Great Depression of 1929. Directed by the late Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential, 8 Mile), the film examines how the web of players within the banking industry, U.S. Treasury department and Federal Reserve struggled to stop the financial ship from sinking by having low-to-no risk banks acquire those that were toxic, while the government bailed out insurance monolith AIG. The real-life horror that resulted was the loss of jobs, homes, cars, retirement funds — lifelong investments essentially rendered worthless.
Though the economy has bounced back since that fateful September, the current administration has proposed removing some of the regulations put in place after the collapse. These regulations, including the introduction of the Dodd-Frank consumer protection act, were designed to prevent history from repeating itself. But if Dodd-Frank and similar legislation are to be delineated or repealed altogether, the risk presented is eerily familiar: Banks get too big, executives grow too greedy, consumer confidence swells to dangerous levels, and the bubble bursts all over again.
The film not only reminds us of this, of what happened, but also what could happen down the line if we’re not careful. Too Big to Fail is, at its core, a wake-up call of financial liabilities to avoid at all costs, especially as the global population and economy continues to expand. If we’re quick to rollback laws put in place to protect us, however, we are faced with the same set of consequences — on a potentially larger scale.
Too Big to Fail is available on HBO.