Reading Response No.2 | Samantha Wells

To briefly summarize the reading, humor, particularly memes has an effect of culture, and as Andrew Breitbart says “politics is downstream from culture.” (As a brief aside, Andrew Breitbart is was the founder of Breitbart news, but passed away prior to the site’s now infamous reputation as being a Trump-supporting platform that occasionally panders to the alt-right. The alt-right is a group that tries to associate themselves with right-wing political thought, but really does not conform to the individual freedom, small government, and free market ideals of the right, but rather suggests that the culture of the “west” belongs to the white race and that to protect that culture there must be a white ethno-state. Most, if not indeed ALL right wing thinkers vehemently object to this racist assertion that ideas can belong to a skin color). I have previously noticed that the discussion of memes in politics often leads to a discussion of the alt-right and their active online presence. For an explanation of the this kind of internet culture check out this video by political commentator Roaming Millennial ( In this video, Millennial explains some of the lingo and language used by internet trolls and alt-right meme makers.

This discussion obviously tends to be touchy and lead to a discussion of the 2016 presidential election, and, while culture does influence politics, the widespread fear of a large alt-right base tends to prove ill-founded. Memes may fight the culture war, but so far, we tend to see that these deep internet cultures are home to small numbers of extremes. There are many factors other than memes that influence culture, such as movies, books, comedy, academia, and art. All of these sphere have influence, and arguable more than that of memes.

Memes can be influential, but are difficult to pin down as a category. Even the definition of the word varies. Some people think only of a very specific image with text over it kind of set up. Others are wider, like the idea of John Cena bursting into the middle of a video. There is also the joke format that can be adapted into different versions on different themes that are funny to individual groups of people. Given the wide-ranging definition of “meme,” it is hard to say exactly how much impact they can have, or have had in the past.

Altogether, memes are still so new, it’s hard to judge how they will impact the future of culture.


Secondary Individual Research | Samantha Wells

Source 1: Friday Interview: Barney Frank on Congress, the Crash, Why Huntsman Is Like Dorothy in Oz

Congressman Barney Frank defends his actions as a legislator during the years leading up to the financial crisis, and calls out a lack of responsible regulation and a glut of predatory lending by private sector non-banks and the main factors that led to the crisis.

Source 2: Hey, Barney Frank: The Government Did Cause the Housing Crisis

A response to the interview in source 1. Points out the non-regulatory failures of government housing policies in the years leading up to the crisis and draws attention to their influence in the normalization and systematization of non-prime loan market.

Source 3: How Government Failure Caused the Great Recession

Discusses increased Federal activity in the housing market and how that leads to artificially drastic booms and busts. Looks back at history long before the 2008 crisis and draws comparisons as well as contrasts.


After reading from these, as well as other sources, it becomes apparent to me that the debate is not over what cause the market crash, but how all parties involved failed to prevent it. Sub prime and other non prime loans in great abundance caused the crash, nearly all analysis comes to that conclusion. The question, however, remains as to where the massive influx of these low-quality loans came from. Arguments blame government influence, Wall Street greed, outstandingly poor regulation, and the lack of foresight and responsibility on the part of the borrowers, but in the end the key is determining which factors are abnormal, and thus drove a regular downturn of the market into a crash and a recession.

History: What Caused it? / Secondary Research

Overall, we found that the widespread proliferation of subprime and predatory loans, failings of various forms of oversight and transparency, and a lack of individual responsibility all contributed to the creation of the housing bubble and the scale of the market crash.


Katy Koetting, Samantha Wells, Leah Bailey, Katie Morrin, Gaby Vinales


Reading Response 1 | Samantha Wells

The financial crisis of 2008 is an undoubtedly polarizing event. Even after a decade of reflection, investigation, and debate, this is a topic that lacks clear consensus of either cause or effect. Wall Street and the Financial Crisis: Anatomy of a Financial Collapse by US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations executive summary address four primary causes: high risk lending, regulatory failure, inflated credit ratings, and investment bank abuses, assigning each of these factors a share of the blame for a crisis brought on by the bursting of the housing bubble. This approach aims to bring forth the findings of the bipartisan committee in as unbiased a way as possible.

The 2008 Housing Crisis by the Center for American Progress, meanwhile, takes a definitive stance on the issue. From the subtitle onward, this article makes clear both the argument it wants to debunk and the argument it wants to present. While the Senate subcommittee spreads blame among several contributing factors, the Center for American Progress emphasizes the faults of Wall Street and its role in the creation of demand for subprime and other non prime loans, which were the driving force behind the housing bubble.

The central debate surrounding the financial crisis of 2008 is over where the push for increasing numbers of subprime loans came from. The Senate subcommittee address this in all four case studies, essentially arguing that certain financial institutions began pursuing predatory lending as a way to increase (at least short-term) profits and please investors. This was then all but ignored by the Federal regulators and credit rating agencies, and the generation of these loans created an opportunity for Wall Street to make profits even as they knew that the loans were crap. The Center for American Progress, meanwhile, pins nearly all of the blame on Wall Street greed, and sets the rest at the feet of a lack of Federal regulation and oversight to check that greed.

The third popular representation of events can be read in A Government-Mandated Housing Bubble by Peter J. Wallison and Edward J. Pinto, writing for Forbes. They argue that it was the Federal push for increased loans to “underserved communities” in the Community Reinvestment Act in the 1990s (and other Federal legislation like it) that began the cycle, because, in order to fulfill quotas, banks had to inevitably make loans that they normally would not have deemed financially sound. This in turn required the GSEs like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to lower their standards for the mortgages they would purchase, which led to a rise in both homeownership and subprime loans. Because the GSEs were backing these loans, money was pouring into the housing market, thus creating a bubble. In summary, government policies pushes may not have been the only factor driving the housing bubble and subsequent financial crisis, but they were instrumental in the genesis of the bubble and drove it to be larger and more catastrophic than a normal market boom and bust.

It is clear that all sides agree on one point: this crisis was preventable. This is what fuels the continued search for the root cause, because finding a definitive cause could safeguard against a repeat. The key is to focus on the interactions between the players during not just those crucial years of 2007 and 2008, but the years that led up to them, in order to see what was the natural cycle of the market and what pushed beyond that cycle to generate a crisis.