On November 11, a 30-year old real estate manager named Omid Malekan spent a couple hours with a script and XTranormal's free cartoon editing program to create a 6-minute explanation of what the Fed was trying to do with quantitative easing. He uploaded his work to YouTube. Eleven days later, the video is closing in on 2.5 million views.
Malekan had been making videos for about two and a half years. "Me and a friend would play practical jokes of each other," he says, "and I thought one day: Wouldn't it be funnier if I made a video making fun of him? I was shocked at how easy it was." From there, he would spend idle time making videos using his favorite pop music, very occasionally dipping into politics. In 2008, for example, he parodied the problems of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac using "The Weight" by The Band. ("Take a load off, Fanny...")
But he had never seen a video take off like "Quantitative Easing Explained."
SLATE: What was the impetus for your first political/economics video, and the impetus for this one?
MALEKAN: At the time I made the Fannie Mae video, I was a trader. I had clients and people whose money I managed who were losing it, so I cared a lot about what was going on. So I didn't like the Fannie bailout or any of the bailouts that followed that -- having open-ended bailouts without structural change is a bad idea. That's where this all started. What led me to make this new video was that I have a lot of friends who come from financial backgrounds, but it's such a strange universe that it's hard to explain to people. I thought, wouldn't be fun to take the conversation I've bee having with them and make a cartoon?
SLATE: What are your own politics?
MALEKAN: I'm all over the map. Socially, I'm pretty liberal. Economically, I'm fairly free-market oriented. I generally prefer to vote third party, because it's just good for the country if we get another voice in there. To me none of this is really partisan because things are the same under both parties. Ben Bernanke was appointed by Bush and re-appointed by Obama, so they both have basically the same policies. The problem, really, is that monetary policy is now removed from people in general. People like Bernanke don't have to get elected. There's a disconnect between them and the people their decisions are affecting.
SLATE: Is there anyone you think should take Bernanke's job?
MALEKAN: You know, I'm not sure. I'd just like to see new people talking about new ideas. We haven't had much of that in a long time. Our economic establishment is all made of up the same people who have been there for years. Obama's Treasury Secretary was head of the New York Fed under Bush!
SLATE: Another way of asking that: What economic thinkers do you believe we should be paying attention to?
MALEKAN: To be honest I'm down on the idea of "economic thinkers" in general. The economic profession of which Bernanke is one of the leading thinkers has been so wrong about so many things. It'd be better for them and for us if they had less confidence in their ability. What did they see coming? Did they see the subprime crisis coming?
SLATE: What are they missing now?
MALEKAN: I'm in real estate, so I'm close to the problem, and the problem is that people don't have enough access to capital at any interest rates. It's not a money supply problem. If all we had to do to create jobs was print money, we'd all have jobs right now.