Everyone now knows that the credit crunch began with American banks giving seemingly crazy loans to poor or uneducated home-buyers who had little or no chance of repaying them.
Early hopes that the problem would be restricted to these so-called sub-prime borrowers have been dashed and the credit crunch is now spreading rapidly to engulf homeowners in middle-class suburbs and on to squeeze industries and jobs in America and around the world.
No-one now seems to knows how big the problem is or where it's going to end, but all seem to be agreed it's set to get far worse in 2008.
In this special series for BBC World Service, reporter Michael Robinson delves deep into the innards of the credit crunch to try to get some answers.
Part One: Making the Debt Monster
In the first programme Michael explores how rapidly the shock wave of the credit crunch is spreading and why it is now moving far beyond the sub-prime homeowners where it began.
What are some of the little-known techniques bankers used to throw off the old constraints on their lending to create their unprecedented mountain of debt?
How have these techniques have resulted in the true extent of the debt problem being hidden away often offshore in strange new financial devices, well away from the gaze of politicians and regulators?