European fiscal crisis understandable for your average Joe – somewhat

European fiscal crisis understandable for your average Joe – somewhat

There's nothing quite like learning about the European fiscal crisis to start your Monday.

But that exactly where I found myself as I was listening to this week's "This American Life" podcast – "Continental Breakup" – while getting ready for my day.

"If you're like us," it says on the "This American Life" website, "when the words 'European debt crisis' pop up in the news you feel a little worried, and a little like taking a nap." While the words "bubble gum," "kangaroo" or "the" also have the effect of making me want to take a nap, I get what they're saying. It sounds awfully dry and far removed from us in America.

But, the podcast taught me why we should care, and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about the situation.

It was – quite simply – fascinating. I had no idea of the history of the Euro and how the "European sovereign debt crisis" – as Wikipedia refers to it – began. And I really didn't have a good feel of what the "crisis" was all about, either. "Greece has a lot of debt. So what?" Well, because of the Euro tie between European countries, so a lot.

The Wikipedia article also is good reading with a lot of interesting charts included. I won't pretend I understood all of it, but I could probably make it through a conversation now without feeling like I need to change the subject to cartoons as soon as possible.

So, if you're interested in learning more about the European fiscal crisis, as well, I think the "This American Life" podcast and the Wikipedia article are good places to start. If you need more than that, well, find an economics professor. And if you need even more than that, may I suggest a nap instead?

• Joe Grace is a writer who lives in Chicago with his wife. Write to him at

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