On the night of Dec. 15, with the nation still focused on the Supreme Court decision three days earlier that settled the 2000 presidential election in George W. Bush’s favor, the act passed as a rider to an omnibus spending bill.

Let’s be clear, and as the Post points out, swaps didn’t create this bust—cheap money and bad lending did. But swaps are playing a critical role in turning this mess into an existential crisis for the entire system. By magnifying the bets, they multiplied the losses. And by making investors at the time think they were hedging their risk, they took much more of it. Because these derivatives are unregulated, companies like AIG could “insure” against losses without putting nearly enough capital in reserves.

We know the rest of that story. A credit to the Post for an instructive post-mortem.

Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu.