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What You're Not Told About The Financial Crisis By Perry Willis 3-18-8
"As Americans we must always remember that we all have a common enemy,
an enemy that is dangerous, powerful and relentless. I refer, of course, to the federal government." -- Dave Barry
You can watch hours and hours of news, or read columns of print in most newspapers, and come away no wiser about the causes and prospects for the current financial turmoil.
Most journalists and TV talking heads don't really understand the subject, and those that do speak and write using so much jargon that the average person must feel he or she is trying to follow a conversation in ancient Hebrew.
We're going to try to cut through the jargon, and explain the situation as best we can, in plain English. If you find our explanation of value, please forward it to others.
The current housing crisis, and all that flows from it, comes from two main sources, both deriving from Washington.
First, Congress passed something called the "Community Reinvestment Act" in 1977, resulting in the creation of bureaucratic regulations designed to encourage, or even compel, financial institutions to make loans to people with lower incomes. These regulations were then amended in 1995 and 2005 to create different rules for institutions of different sizes, so that various kinds of institutions would be better able to meet the government's goals for fostering home ownership in lower income communities.
Second, the Federal Reserve starting making loans available to the banking system at extremely low interest rates.
Third, steps one and two combined to make cheap housing loans available to people who could not have afforded or qualified for them before. This caused an increased demand for housing that sent home prices spiralling upward.
Fourth, mortgage lenders managed the risk involved in making these loans by selling their mortgages to other companies, which in turn thought that they were managing their own risk because they had a wide variety of mortgages, from many different types of borrowers, in their portfolio. Fifth, these decisions about how to manage the increased risk created by the "Community Reinvestment Act" were all in error, because the Fed's policy of easy money had falsely inflated the value of ALL homes. This meant that good mortgages could not be used to manage the risk involved in questionable mortgages, because the value of ALL homes was falsely inflated.
Sixth, as with all inflationary booms, increases in home prices finally absorbed the increased purchasing power provided by the Fed, leading to a slow-down in home purchases. When this moment arrived everyone realized that the homes they had purchased weren't really worth what they had paid for them. The defaults and foreclosures then began, along with the collapse of the financial institutions that owned these unsound mortgages. Now, the complicated, multi-part scenario described above has been simplified in popular reporting to just two words: sub-prime loans. These two words, combined with the idea that lenders took advantage of poor unsuspecting customers, are supposed to explain everything. But this explanation is both simple and simply insufficient.
A study by the Mortgage Bankers Association tells the true story. In the third quarter of last year fixed rate mortgages accounted for 45% of foreclosures, while sub-prime ARMs accounted for only 43%.
It's not hard to understand why. Who wants to be on the hook for a mortgage that is tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars higher than the property is really worth? Rather than bear this burden, many borrowers are choosing to default, and walk away from their properties. This is especially happening with speculators who bought houses in order to "flip" them. To cope with these foreclosures . . .
Banks have offered their bad mortgages as collateral to borrow money from the Federal Reserve. The money the Fed lends through this process is created out of thin air. This has two shocking consequences. First, the Fed is coming to effectively own an increasing portion of America's stock of housing, and two, these Federal Reserve loans are inflating the money supply, causing prices to rise all through the economy.
As the Fed creates more and more new dollars, the value of all the previously existing dollars declines. This forces people to seek ways to protect their accumulated wealth against the devaluing effects of monetary inflation. Thus . . .
People buy other currencies, causing the exchange value of the dollar to fall They buy gold, pushing the price up above $1,000 an ounce And they buy oil futures, driving up those prices too But it gets worse . . .
Monetary inflation is making foreign investors reluctant to buy U.S. Treasury bonds. Who wants to hold bonds denominated in dollars when the Federal Reserve is reducing the value of the dollar?
The "London Telegraph" reports that foreign participation at a recent auction of U.S. Treasury bonds fell from 25% to less than 6%.
Sadly, there is every reason to expect this phenomenon to continue. This will leave the Federal government with only two options for funding its ever growing deficits. The government must either pay much more interest on its bonds, to compensate lenders for the monetary inflation, or it must sell its bonds to the Federal Reserve System, which will buy the bonds with yet more money created out of thin air, adding still more fuel to the inflationary fire.
The more the Federal government has to pay in interest, the larger the deficits will grow, or, the more it borrows from the Federal Reserve, the more it will have to pay in interest to private lenders. It's a vicious bind.
There is one thing the Federal government could do immediately to lessen this bind. It could cut spending to balance its budget, thereby reducing inflationary pressures. Please use our "Unfunded Liabilities" campaign to ask Congress to do exactly that.
Use your personal comments to tell Congress that you know foreign participation in U.S. bond auctions is declining. Tell them you do not want them to sell their bonds to the Federal Reserve, thereby driving up the money supply. CONGRESS MUST BALANCE THE BUDGET NOW.
_________
Perry Willis Communications Director DownsizeDC.org, Inc. D o w n s i z e r - D i s p a t c h is the official email list of DownsizeDC.org, Inc. & Downsize DC Foundation
http://www.DownsizeDC.org
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The analysis is somewhat simplistic, but is on the right track. Thanks for posting this.
i
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OK, since you're being good about it, let me try to play "fair and balanced" about this, and I ain't talking about Fox News. I'm not interested in making some ideological point about it. I'm only interested in the facts as best we can figure them out.
I'm not an expert but the mortgage part, at least, is something I'm fairly familiar with. My understanding is this:
The Community Reinvestment Act, dating from 1977 and stiffened in the '90s, does bear some culpability in this. But not very much. The act was intended to stop "redlining" by mortgage lenders. They were refusing to write mortgages for certain communities -- mostly black ones -- and it didn't matter how well qualified the borrower was.
It worked fairly well. It did slightly increase mortgage lenders' risk, but they had it pretty well covered by somewhat higher rates. The market was pressing to minimize these loans, and the government was pushing back, so we had an equilibrium that was working Ok.
Sometime in the '90s, the shadow banking world came up with "securitization." Now they had a way to bundle these mortgages and morph them into new instruments, where they could bury their subprime mortgages. This is where the *real* culpability lies, from what I can determine. The rating agencies for some bizarre reason allowed these bundles to get rated as investment-grade securities, and the market pressures reversed. Now, the lenders were going after those formerly redline-district buyers and low-income buyers, pushing them into mortgages because the original lender could discount that junk and flip it into the shadow banking system, making a big profit.
Now, instead of a working equilibrium, it was Katie Bar the Doors. The lenders (or brokers, really, because they weren't holding any paper) were chasing these potential buyers with advertising, "introductory rate" terms, and every other scam they could come up with. They drove the whole thing. The CRA could have disappeared at this point and it probably wouldn't have mattered a bit. The money guys had created a new gravy train, and it was running on its own.
The article you pointed to (when I see bold type on a brown textured background, I assume it's an amateur or a crank, and that's seldom wrong d8-)), in true LewRockell/RobertMises/Hayak fashion, misrepresents the facts. It implies that the mortgage failures are really slightly higher from the fixed-rate borrowers, neglecting to point out the 10:1 ratio I mentioned and also failing to point out that 40% of the subprime loans are, in fact, fixed-rate. It also doesn't mention that something like 85% of the subprime loans are *not* going to first-time buyers (I'd have to check this -- there's an industry report that gives us these numbers, updated every year or six months, but I haven't looked at it since December), but actually represent re-financing by people who are cashing out of homes they've had for a while -- sometimes a very long while.
So the whole thing is a lot more complicated and nuanced than either side is admitting. There is no real, useful explanation that fits on a single page.
--
Ed Huntress

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On Mon, 24 Mar 2008 13:09:58 -0600 in rec.crafts.metalworking,

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