The Democrats issue new Lending Regulations to address the Financial Crisis they Created

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 13th, 2013

Week in Review

The subprime mortgage crisis is still a political football.  The Democrats are using the crisis to further regulate the financial markets.  Giving us the convoluted Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.  Financial reform.  For apparently there was no financial oversight of the financial markets up until now.  Despite Barney Frank being the Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee (2007-2011).  And Chris Dodd being the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs (2007-2011).  Both of who were responsible for the oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  The GSEs at the center of the subprime mortgage crisis (see Mortgage lender rules released by Daniel Wagner, Associated Press, posted 1/10/2013 on The Washington Times).

In the wake of the national housing collapse that helped bring on the Great Recession, federal regulators for the first time are laying out rules aimed at ensuring that borrowers can afford to pay their mortgages.

The long-anticipated rules being unveiled Thursday by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau impose a range of obligations and restrictions on lenders, including bans on the risky “interest-only” and “no documentation” loans that helped inflate the housing bubble…

CFPB Director Richard Cordray, in remarks prepared for an event Thursday, called the rules “the true essence of responsible lending…”

Mr. Cordray noted that in the years leading up to the 2008 financial crisis, consumers could easily obtain mortgages that they could not afford to repay.

So, prior to the Great Recession and the 2008 financial crisis we did not have responsible lending.  Which resulted in consumers obtaining mortgages they could not afford to repay.  Why?  Why were people getting mortgages they had no chance of repaying?  Who was responsible for that?  Well, as it turns out it was President Clinton.  Whose administration overhauled the Community Reinvestment Act (see New Study Finds CRA ‘Clearly’ Did Lead To Risky Lending by Paul Sperry posted 12/20/2012 on Investors.com)

Democrats and the media insist the Community Reinvestment Act, the anti-redlining law beefed up by President Clinton, had nothing to do with the subprime mortgage crisis and recession.

But a new study by the respected National Bureau of Economic Research finds, “Yes, it did. We find that adherence to that act led to riskier lending by banks.”

Added NBER: “There is a clear pattern of increased defaults for loans made by these banks in quarters around the (CRA) exam. Moreover, the effects are larger for loans made within CRA tracts,” or predominantly low-income and minority areas.

To satisfy CRA examiners, “flexible” lending by large banks rose an average 5% and those loans defaulted about 15% more often, the 43-page study found…

The strongest link between CRA lending and defaults took place in the runup to the crisis — 2004 to 2006 — when banks rapidly sold CRA mortgages for securitization by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and Wall Street.

CRA regulations are at the core of Fannie’s and Freddie’s so-called affordable housing mission. In the early 1990s, a Democrat Congress gave HUD the authority to set and enforce (through fines) CRA-grade loan quotas at Fannie and Freddie.

It passed a law requiring the government-backed agencies to “assist insured depository institutions to meet their obligations under the (CRA).” The goal was to help banks meet lending quotas by buying their CRA loans.

But they had to loosen underwriting standards to do it. And that’s what they did…

From 2001-2007, Fannie and Freddie bought roughly half of all CRA home loans, most carrying subprime features…

Housing analysts say the CRA is the central thread running through the subprime scandal — from banks and subprime lenders to Fannie and Freddie to even Wall Street firms that took most of the heat for the crisis…

While the 1977 law was passed 30 years before the crisis, it underwent a major overhaul just 10 years earlier. Starting in 1995, banks were measured on their use of innovative and flexible” lending standards, which included reduced down payments and credit requirements.

Banks that didn’t meet Clinton’s tough new numerical lending targets were denied merger plans, among other penalties. CRA shakedown groups like Acorn held hostage the merger plans of banks like Citibank and Washington Mutual until they pledged more loans to credit-poor minorities (see chart).

A Democrat Congress gave HUD the authority to set and enforce (through fines) CRA-grade loan quotas at Fannie and Freddie?  And Democrats say that Community Reinvestment Act had nothing to do with the 2008 financial crisis?  Funny.  Based on the historical record the Democrat Congress that forced lenders to loosen underwriting standards to meet those quotas are solely responsible for setting into motion the events that led to the 2008 financial crisis.  Not Wall Street.  Not the banks.  It was the Democrat Congress that empowered HUD to destroy good lending practices.  And they bear the responsibility for the 2008 financial crisis.  And the Great Recession.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Without a Bill Clinton the Bursting of the Canadian Housing Bubble will be less Painful than in the US

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 10th, 2012

Week in Review

The subprime mortgage crisis caused the Great Recession.  And bad government policy caused the subprime mortgage policy.  First with artificially low interest rates to encourage everyone to borrow money and take on enormous amounts of debt.  Then the Clinton administration took it up a notch.  By charging lenders with discrimination in their lending practices.  And if they didn’t find a away to qualify the unqualified for mortgages they would soon find themselves out of the mortgage business.  So they came up with subprime lending.  Adjustable rate mortgages (ARM).  No documentation mortgages.  Anything to get the government off of their backs.  And the government was so pleased with what they saw they started to buy (and/or guarantee) those toxic mortgages with their Government Sponsored Enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  Clearing those toxic mortgages from the lenders balance sheet by unloading them onto unsuspecting investors.  Clearing the way for even more toxic subprime lending.  The government was pleased.  And the bankers were making money with bad lending practices.  Something they normally would have avoided because it is very risky.  But when the government was transferring that risk to the taxpayer what did they have to lose?

Governments like a hot real estate market.  Because housing sales drives so much economic activity.  Because people put a lot of stuff into those houses.  Which is why governments are always quick to use their monetary authority to lower interest rates.  Which is what they did in the US.  Cheap money to borrow.  Lax lending practices thanks to the Clinton administration.  Creating a housing boom.  And a housing bubble.  It was a perfect storm brewing.  The only thing that it needed was a raise in the interest rates.  Which came.  Causing the subprime mortgage crisis as those ARMS reset at higher interest rates.  Leading to a wave of subprime mortgage defaults.  And the Great Recession.  Which raced around the world thanks to those toxic mortgages Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac unloaded on unsuspecting investors.

Canada did not suffer as much from the Great Recession.  Because they did not pressure their lenders to qualify the unqualified like Bill Clinton did in the US.  But they still used their monetary authority to keep interest rates artificially low.  So while they escaped the great damage the Americans suffered in their subprime mortgage they still have a housing bubble.  And it looks like it may be time for it to burst (see Analysis: Canada braces as housing slowdown takes hold by Andrea Hopkins posted 11/10/2012 on Reuters).

Long convinced the country’s housing boom would never end in a crash, Canadians have watched this autumn as a sharp slowdown in real estate spreads across the country, leaving would-be home buyers hopeful and sellers scared…

Signs are everywhere that Canada’s long run-up in house prices is over, hit by a combination of tighter mortgage lending rules and growing consumer reluctance to take on more debt. Sales of existing homes are down steeply, with condo sales hit especially hard, and some long-booming prices have started to fall…

Canadian households hold more debt than American families did before the U.S. housing bubble burst, which has led the government to tighten mortgage lending rules four times in four years…

Tal believes slower sales activity will be followed by falling prices in many cities. But he says Canadian lending standards have been higher, and borrowers more cautious, than in the United States before its crash, which will prevent large-scale mortgage defaults and plunging prices.

Mindful of what happened in the United States, the Canadian government has tightened mortgage rules to prevent home buyers from taking on too much debt. While interest rates are low and expected to stay low into 2013, the fear is that eventual rate hikes will drive borrowers out of their homes or into bankruptcy…

The last round of mortgage rule changes took effect in July, forcing home buyers to cut back on their budget and pushing many prospective first-time buyers out of the market entirely.

The Canadians may escape the damage the US suffered as Bill Clinton was an American and not a Canadian.  So they only have to suffer the effects of bad monetary policy.  Not the effects of government enforced bad lending practices.  So housing prices will fall in Canada.  And there will probably be a recession to correct those inflated real estate prices.  But housing prices probably will not fall as far as they did in the US.  For the Canadians were more responsible with their irresponsible monetary policy than the Americans were.

The lesson here is that when markets determine interest rates housing bubbles are smaller and recessions are less painful.  If you don’t believe that just ask an American with an underwater mortgage.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Bank fires Man 50 Years after his Crime of Stealing a Dime’s Worth of Stuff

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 1st, 2012

Week in Review

It’s tough working for a bank these days (see Wells Fargo Fires Iowa Worker for Minor 1963 Crime by The Associated Press posted 8/28/2012 on Yahoo! Finance).

Wells Fargo Home Mortgage (WFC) has fired a Des Moines worker over a 1963 incident at a Laundromat involving a fake dime in the wake of new employment guidelines.

Wow.  Guess the Democrats are right about banks.  They’re just a bunch of evil, heartless bastards.  This was a crime intended to steal $0.10 of stuff almost 50 years ago.  As far as crimes go this one sounds more like a kid doing something stupid than a criminal acting with malice aforethought.  Yet these evil, heatless bastards fired the guy.  I’d like to hear their excuse for such an incomprehensible act.

Big banks have been firing low-level employees like Eggers since new federal banking employment guidelines were enacted in May 2011 and new mortgage employment guidelines took hold in February, the newspaper said. The tougher standards are meant to clear out executives and mid-level bank employees guilty of transactional crimes — such as identity theft and money laundering — but are being applied across the board because of possible fines for noncompliance.

Banks have fired thousands of workers nationally, said Natasha Buchanan, an attorney in Santa Ana, Calif., who has helped some of the workers regain their eligibility to be employed.

“Banks are afraid of the FDIC and the penalties they could face,” Buchanan said.

The regulatory rules forbid the employment of anyone convicted of a crime involving dishonesty, breach of trust or money laundering. Before the guidelines were changed, banks widely interpreted the rules to exclude minor traffic offenses and misdemeanors.

Oh.  It’s not the banks that are the evil, heartless bastards.  It’s our government.  Funny how they fire a man for trying to steal $0.10 approximately 50 years ago but Barney Frank and Chris Dodd get off scot-free after their part in facilitating the subprime mortgage crisis.  These men were responsible for the oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  And they said everything was fine even though Fannie and Freddie were buying all those toxic subprime mortgages and unloading them on unsuspecting investors.

Steal a dime’s worth of stuff 50 years ago lose your job.  Cause a worldwide financial meltdown bordering on a depression you go on your way whistling a happy tune.  Keeping your full retirement benefits.  Funny how that works.  Proving once again what Ronald Reagan said.  Government is not the answer to our problems.  Government is the problem.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The Left still attacks Free Market Capitalism and the Invisible Hand despite the Left’s Record of Economic Failure

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 14th, 2012

Week in Review

No matter how many times their policies fail those on the left never give up.  The free market capitalism that gave us the Industrial Revolution was not as good as the mercantilism it replaced.  The free market capitalism that won World War II was not as good as Nazi Germany’s National Socialism.  The free market capitalism that won the Cold War was not as good as the Soviet Union’s communism.   No, any economic system that doesn’t place smart people in the government (and from our most prestigious universities) in charge is an inferior economic system.  At least, according to those on the Left (see There Is No Invisible Hand by Jonathan Schlefer posted 4/10/2012 on the Harvard Business Review).

One of the best-kept secrets in economics is that there is no case for the invisible hand. After more than a century trying to prove the opposite, economic theorists investigating the matter finally concluded in the 1970s that there is no reason to believe markets are led, as if by an invisible hand, to an optimal equilibrium — or any equilibrium at all. But the message never got through to their supposedly practical colleagues who so eagerly push advice about almost anything. Most never even heard what the theorists said, or else resolutely ignored it.

Interesting.  Using the economists of the Seventies as the authoritative position for government interventionism into the economy.  Why, that would be like having the captain of the Titanic being the authority on how to miss icebergs in the North Atlantic. 

The Seventies were the heyday of Keynesian economics.  Where the government was aggressively intervening into things economic.  And the results of their policies were so bad that we had to create new words to describe it.  Like stagflation.  A heretofore unheard of phenomenon.  And something that just wasn’t supposed to happen when the Keynesians used inflation to lower unemployment.  But it did.  Even though you weren’t supposed to get inflation and high unemployment at the same time.  Stagflation.  Like we did.  In the Seventies.

Believing far too credulously in an invisible hand, the Federal Reserve failed to see the subprime crisis coming. The principal models it used literally assumed that markets are always in instantaneous equilibrium, so how could a crisis occur? But after the crisis exploded, the Fed dropped its high-tech invisible-hand models and responded with full force to support the economy.

The subprime mortgage crisis was a government-made crisis.  Precisely because government refused to allow the Invisible Hand to guide the market place.  Instead they stepped in.  Forced lenders to make risky subprime loans to people who couldn’t qualify for a mortgage.  With tools like the infamous Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM).  And then they had Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac buy those risky mortgages.  To get them off the lenders’ balance sheets so they would make more risky loans.  Then Freddie and Fannie chopped up these risky loans and repackaged them into ‘safe’ investments to unload them to unsuspecting investors.  Getting these toxic mortgages off of their balance sheets.  (In case you don’t know, Fannie and Freddie are Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSE).  Which are for all intents and purposes the government.)  This house of cards imploded when the Fed raised interest rates.  After keeping them below what the Invisible Hand would have set them at for far too long.  The government created the real estate bubble.  Then blew it up when those higher interest rates reset all the AMR mortgage payments beyond the homeowner’s ability to pay.

There are many economists in the world.  And the consensus of economic thought tends to be one that supports large government intervention.  Which proves the economic consensus is wrong.  For if history supported this consensus the Soviet Union would have won the Cold War.  East Germany would have absorbed West Germany.  China would not be experimenting in ‘Invisible Hand’ capitalism.  And Cuba wouldn’t be experimenting with a little capitalism themselves to fix their broken government command economy.

All these market failures economists like to point to aren’t market failures.  They are the unintended consequences of government intervention into the market.  As the subprime mortgage crisis clearly proved.  Which never would have happened in the first place if the government didn’t try to be smarter than the Invisible Hand.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Barney Frank caused or allowed the Subprime Mortgage Crisis

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 3rd, 2011

Week in Review

The worst financial crisis since the Great Depression happened under Barney Frank’s watch.  As did one of the worst housing bubbles.  And what exactly were Barney Frank’s responsibilities during these crises (see Barney Frank’s retirement: What it means for House Financial Services panel by Felicia Sonmez posted 11/28/2011 on The Washington Post)?

The news that Rep. Barney Frank will retire at the end of his term in 2012 sets off an internal scramble among Democrats to succeed the longtime Massachusetts lawmaker as the ranking member on the Financial Services Committee.

Since 2003, Frank has served as the top Democrat on the powerful 61-member panel, the second-largest of the House’s 20 standing committees. (Armed Services is the largest, with 62 members.) The committee has broad oversight over the banking, housing, insurance and securities sectors as well as over federal monetary policy and international finance.

Oh.  He was responsible for the Congressional oversight for the banking, housing (as in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac), insurance and securities sectors.  Big responsibility.  And he did a piss-poor job.  As demonstrated by the reckless mortgage lending of the banking industry facilitated by Fannie and Freddie that caused the housing bubble that led to the subprime mortgage crisis.  Wow.  Rarely can we trace so much destruction back to one man.  And his punishment for ruining the American economy and so many people’s retirement?  Not a thing.  In fact, the guy who was so bad at financial oversight co-wrote the Dodd-Frank financial regulation legislation for better oversight.  Unbelievable.

Someone can climb over your fence with a ladder, put it up to the deck of your above the ground pool, ignore the ‘do not dive’ sign and dive into the shallow end of the pool.  And if this trespasser beaks his neck guess who gets in trouble?  The pool owner.  Because he didn’t secure that ‘attractive nuisance’ enough to prevent that accident from happening.  But Barney gets off scot-free.  How fair is this?  Not very.  But that’s life.  In the U.S. House of Representatives.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , ,

After Enabling the Subprime Mortgage Crisis, Fannie and Freddie are still Losing Money and want Another Bailout

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 13th, 2011

Week in Review

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are still losing money.  And are now asking for another taxpayer bailout.  Imagine that (see Falling home prices leads to bigger Fannie Mae loss; asks taxpayers for $7.8 billion more by the Associated Press posted 11/8/2011 on The Washington Post).

Mortgage giant Fannie Mae is asking the federal government for $7.8 billion in aid to cover its losses in the July-September quarter…

Michael Williams, Fannie’s president and CEO, said Fannie’s losses are increasing for two reasons: Some homeowners are paying less interest after refinancing at historically low mortgage rates; others are defaulting on their mortgages.

When property values drop, homeowners default, either because they are unable to afford the payments or because they owe more than the property is worth. Because of the guarantees, Fannie and Freddie must pay for the losses.

The problem now isn’t low mortgage rates and defaults.  That was the problem when government policy used Fannie and Freddie to create a housing bubble.  This is what gave us the subprime mortgage crisis.  Putting people into houses they couldn’t afford.  By forcing banks to qualify the unqualified.  And then having Fannie and Freddie buy these toxic mortgages from the banks.  So the banks could qualify more of the unqualified.  And continue the cycle.  All the while putting more and more risk onto the American taxpayer.  Because, as we have seen, it is the American taxpayer that bailed out Fannie and Freddie.  And now they’re asking for more money.

Government created the subprime mortgage crisis.  With their enablers of bad credit Fannie and Freddie.

Washington-based Fannie and McLean, Va.-based Freddie own or guarantee about half of all mortgages in the U.S., or nearly 31 million home loans. Along with other federal agencies, they backed nearly 90 percent of new mortgages over the past year.

Fannie and Freddie buy home loans from banks and other lenders, package them with bonds with a guarantee against default and sell them to investors around the world. The companies nearly folded three years ago because of big losses on risky mortgages they purchased.

This wasn’t the banks on Wall Street causing this mess.  The deed was already done by the time they sold those toxic mortgages.  For had it not been for Fannie and Freddie they would have been no toxic mortgages for Wall Street to sell.  And no subprime mortgage crisis.

And there would have been no Fannie and Freddie mess without their overseers.  The federal government.  And their policy to put as many people into houses.  Whether they could afford it or not.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

When Democrat Policies Fail and they Fall in the Polls they Scramble to Endorse Reaganomics

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 5th, 2011

Democrats have Blamed every ill known to Mankind on Reaganomics

The Left hates Ronald Reagan.  Proclaimed the era of Reagan was over.  No more were these Reagan Republicans going to screw over the poor so the rich can live a better life.  Yes, they hated this man with a passion.  And everything he stood for.  This supply-sider of the Austrian School.  He and is unfunny Laffer Curve.  This cold-hearted tax cutter.  But now they love him.  Why?  Because he supported taxing the rich.

I’ll pause a moment for those of you who have fallen out of your chairs.  Ready?  Good.

You know Congressional Democrats are grasping at straws to promote their policies when they claim their archenemy would have supported them, too.  You know why they’re trying, though, don’t you?  If you listened to the protesters on Wall Street you should know.  With their control of public school teachers and college professors (both dependent on taxpayer money for generous pay and benefit packages), they can revise history.  And keep kids ignorant.  Hopefully keeping them oblivious of things they don’t want them to know.  Such as the true legacy of Ronald Reagan (see MILLER: Ripping off the Gipper by Emily Miller posted 10/4/2011 on The Washington Times).

Liberals are trying to twist Ronald Reagan’s words to muster support for raising taxes. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s press office sent a memo on Monday to congressional Republicans claiming they’d found evidence proving that President Reagan was the real inspiration for President Obama’s tax-the-rich “Buffett Rule.” The California Democrat posed the question: “What would Reagan do?”

The correct answer is: He would cut taxes. Mrs. Pelosi’s memo sends people over to the liberal Think Progress website, where a video montage interweaves clips of Mr. Obama and Reagan saying apparently similar things about tax rates. “We’re going to close the unproductive tax loopholes that allow some of the truly wealthy to avoid paying their fair share,” said the Gipper.

You’re supposed to think that’s just what Mr. Obama is doing, but the liberals edited out the context of the 40th president’s remarks. In a June 1985 speech at an Atlanta high school, he called for a total overhaul of the tax system. He wanted loopholes closed to lower the tax rates for everyone, for a net reduction in the tax burden. Congressional Republicans point out that’s precisely the opposite of what the Democrats are now trying to do.

You see, the Democrats can’t rely on telling the truth to pass their policies.  Because their policies only benefit those in government.  And those who live like parasites on the wealth creators.  Such as those protestors on Wall Street.  Who want the wealth of the wealth creators.  But want no part of capitalism which created that wealth.  And are too ignorant to understand that you can’t have one without the other.

Thank you public school teachers and college professors.

So they must lie.  Revise history.  To try and fool people into believing that their policies are just like Ronald Reagan’s.  And apparently hoping people don’t remember that Democrats have blamed every ill known to mankind on these very same policies.  ReaganomicsTrickledown economics.  The scourge of mankind.  But the majority of Americans apparently love the big lug so they’ll swallow back their bile and say, hey, we love him, too.  And hope that the grimace on their face doesn’t look as bad or as painful as it feels.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac created America’s Financial Mess, not Wall Street

So where did these Wall Street protests come from?  Where did the primary impetus come from?  Apparently Canada.  Thanks, Canada.  As if the corrupting influence of Terrance and Phillip wasn’t enough already.  So I guess we have to Blame Canada (Warning:  Blame Canada contains adult content) for this, too (see Occupy Toronto leaderless, unfocused but hopeful by Dana Flavelle posted 10/4/2011 on the Toronto Star).

The Wall Street protests were inspired by Canadian anti-consumer magazine Adbusters.

Editor in chief and co-founder Kalle Lasn said he’s been calling for this kind of protest movement for 20 years.

It’s finally happening because people are angry with the financial fraudsters on Wall Street who created America’s economic mess and largely went unpunished, he said in a telephone interview from Vancouver.

But that isn’t who created America’s financial mess.  It was government.  Specifically the government sponsored enterprises (GSE) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  If it wasn’t for them buying and/or guaranteeing risky subprime mortgages there would have been no subprime mortgage crisis.

That was government policy.  Putting as many people into houses as possible.  Even if they couldn’t afford them.  That wasn’t Wall Street.  Wall Street was merely an accessory after the fact.  Aiding and abetting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  By selling those toxic subprime mortgages in collateralized debt obligations (CDOs).  Promoting them as high yield yet low risk.  Because they were backed by mortgages, historically the safest loans in all of America.  So investors bought these.  Not knowing how risky they were.  But you know who knew how risky they were?  The GSEs Fanny and Freddie.  Because they bought them.  And remember what the ‘G’ stands for in GSE.  Government.

If you removed government from this equation mortgage bankers would not have approved these risky subprime mortgages.  Because that risk would have been on their books.  But when government said ‘don’t worry  we’ll take that risk off of your books’ what did they have to lose in approving risky subprime mortgages?  Less harassment from the government for not approving mortgages for the poor and minorities who didn’t qualify?  Yeah, like they were going to miss that harassment.

If these protestors want to protest those responsible they should protest government.  Not Wall Street.

Damn Canadians.  If it’s not making our kids fart and curse they’re getting them to protest the wrong people.  (Editor’s note:  We like Canada and Canadians.  And mean them no disrespect.  We’re just having a little fun with the movie South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut.  In which incidents lead to war between Canada and the U.S.  A premise so ridiculous that it’s funny.  For Canada and the U.S. have been the best of friends.  And will always be the best of friends.)

The more Public Sector Union Employees paying Dues the more Money is collected for Democrat Coffers

Perhaps that’s the problem.  Too much government.  The federal government has grown into a behemoth.  On top of thousands and thousands of local governments throughout the country (see Infographic: Local government by the numbers by Mary Mahling and Carla Uriona posted 10/4/2011 on Stateline).

There are 89,476 local governments in the United States. They include counties, cities, villages, towns and townships, as well as special districts that handle utilities, fire, police and library services.

That’s a lot of government.  And there’s only one way to pay for a lot of government.  With a lot of taxes.

So we have government upon government upon government.  Surely with all that government we must be getting some value for all of these taxes.

More than two centuries of American democracy have resulted in a profusion of governments at the local level, not only cities and counties but villages and townships, park districts and sanitary districts and a host of others. To those trying desperately to bring a state’s budget into balance, many of these are useless anachronisms incapable of providing any service that could not be provided higher up the governmental chain. But to the tens of thousands of people who hold office in these local entities — and to millions of citizens who live within them — multiple local governments are a crucial piece of evidence that American democracy reaches down to the grassroots level.

Apparently not.  And don’t call me Shirley.

They just provide a lot of jobs for the unemployable.  By taxing the wealth creators.  And redistributing it to people whose job is a duplicate of one at another level of government.

They do serve a purpose, though.  Being totally funded by taxpayers, they have a vested interest to keep raising taxes on the taxpayers.  Which is, of course, helpful to Democrats.  So the more local governments the better.  The more public sector union employees paying dues the more money finds its way into Democrat coffers.

Any Attempt to Quantify Human Behavior will Ultimately Fail

And then you have academe.  And Keynesian economists.  Furthering the growth of government with their government-spending Keynesian economics (see Tis The Gift To Be Simple by Paul Krugman posted 10/5/2011 on The New York Times).

To be sure, IS-LM is an attempt to squeeze a dynamic economy into a static model, which is why people like me usually cross-check our conclusions with something intertemporal. But it’s actually a pretty darn sophisticated approach — as demonstrated by the fact that economists who dismiss or attack IS-LM as too simplistic or something almost always end up making assertions that are much more simplistic than IS-LM, if not falling into outright logical fallacies. In fact, I can’t think of a single exception to this rule: every attack on IS-LM I’ve ever seen (as opposed to suggestions that we should also look at more complex models) was followed by some kind of empirical or logical howler.

I have a criticism.  Any attempt to quantify human behavior will ultimately fail.  Because you can’t quantify human behavior.

Economics belong to the branch of science we call social sciences.  That is, it’s not real science.  Because the wildcard is that human behavior can always produce some unintended consequence to government action.  Such as Prohibition giving us organized crime.  Whereas the equations of science typically don’t.  We can use science to build bridges, buildings and airplanes.  And they work pretty much as planned.  Without any unintended consequences.

You can’t represent human behavior by mathematical formulas.  We know some behavioral responses.  Such as sex in advertising gets men’s attention.  But that’s a base primeval instinct.  There’s not a whole lot of thinking going on.  Not so in a complex economy.  Where there is a lot of thinking going on.  Keynesians like to think the economy is as simple as impulse buying at the point of sale checkout aisle.  Put more candy on display and you sell more candy.  Not so with buying a house.

Everyone will like to own a beautiful home.  But people won’t buy a house on impulse.  Not when there’s record unemployment.  And talk of a double-dip recession.  Because if you learned anything from the subprime mortgage crisis it’s this.  Too much debt is bad.  And there is no such thing as a guaranteed job.  Playing with interest rates won’t change that.  Only time will.  When enough time has passed to let people feel secure in their jobs again.  Then and only then will they consider taking on debt again.  No matter what the IS-LM model predicts.  Because you can’t quantify human behavior.

The Wall Street Protestors with Student Loan Debt Probably don’t have Science or Engineering Degrees

All government policy is social science.  It’s not an exact science.  That’s why strange things happen.  Unintended things.  Whenever government tries to influence behavior.  And when government tries they have a track record of failure.  Which is why they don’t run for reelection on the success of their policies.  They run on the success of someone else’s (Ronald Reagan’s) policies.  And say that their policies are the same.  And they are except with a few minor changes.  And by ‘few’ I mean they couldn’t be any more different.  So they lie.  Or they just demonize their opponents.

But our kids are blissfully ignorant.  Thanks to public school teachers.  And college professors.  Who care more about improving their taxpayer funded pay and benefits than education.  That’s why government grows.  And why we have degrees like women’s studies.  And poetry.  Degrees that offer no hope for employment in a capitalistic economy.  For what business that relies on pleasing their customers (like Apple does consistently) need people with these skills?

No.  They need people with science and engineering degrees.  You know, the hard ones.  So the kids who took the easy route in college must depend on teaching others their worthless knowledge.  Or get a government job.  Which has a lot to do with the anger of these protestors who have huge student loan debt.  And no job.  Because if they hate capitalism you can guess what their degrees are in.

(Editor’s note:  This was written before news of Steve Jobs’ passing broke.  Our condolences go out to his family.  We decided to leave the Apple reference in as a tribute to Steve Jobs.  He was one of America’s greatest entrepreneurs.  The world is a better place because of him.  For the gifts he gave us.  And the inspiration he gave to the next generation of great entrepreneurs.)

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Keynesian Economics gave us the Subprime Mortgage Crisis, but the Government blames S&P

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 20th, 2011

We call it the Subprime Mortgage Crisis, not the Mortgage-Backed Securities Crisis 

When responsible for a problem you can accept blame.  Or you can blame the messenger.  Or better yet, you can attack the messenger (see Criticism of Standard & Poor’s over U.S. credit rating compounds its troubles in Washington by Jim Puzzanghera, Los Angeles Times, posted 8/18/2011 on WGNtv).

The backlash against Standard & Poor’s for downgrading the U.S. credit rating adds to the company’s problems in the nation’s capital, where it faces investigations for its role in fueling the financial crisis with faulty assessments of mortgage-backed securities.

S&P and the other credit-rating firms are widely believed to have enabled the near market meltdown by giving AAA ratings to many securities backed by risky subprime mortgages.

So the credit-rating firms enabled the subprime mortgage crisis.  Interesting.  Because the bad subprime mortgages already existed by the time those mortgage-backed securities came to them for review.  And it was those preexisting mortgages that people defaulted on and caused the near market meltdown.  So I don’t think you can blame this all on S&P.  And remember, we call it the subprime mortgage crisis.  Not the mortgage-backed securities crisis.  Ergo, the cause was the subprime mortgages.  And S&P didn’t write those mortgages.

Subprime Mortgages:  Creative Financing to Qualify the Unqualified

Once upon a time you saved up 20% for the down payment on a new house.  Then you went to a savings and loan to get a mortgage.  Or a bank.  In those days, people saved their money.  They deposited it into their savings accounts and earned 3% interest.  The banks and savings and loans then loaned it at 6%.  And the bankers were on the golf course by 3 PM.  Hence the joke about the 3-6-3 industry.  It wasn’t very sexy.  But it was reliable.  Few defaulted.  Because a new home owner had a lot to lose from day 1 thanks to that 20% down payment.

But there was a problem with this.  Home ownership was restricted to only those people who could afford to buy houses.  Those who could put down a 20% down payment.  And who had a job with sufficient income to qualify for a mortgage.  Well, you can see the problem with this.  What about the poor people who couldn’t come up with the 20% down payment nor had a job with sufficient income to qualify for a mortgage?

After World War II home ownership became a national goal.  Home ownership equaled economic growth.  It became the American dream (no longer was it the liberty that the Founding Fathers gave us).  As the years went by some saw that the poor were being left out.  Included in that long list of those who could not qualify for a mortgage were a lot of blacks.  Activists claimed that banks were redlining.  Disapproving a larger percentage of black applicants than white.  There were protests.  Investigations.  Banks had to figure out a way to qualify the unqualified and fast.  To prove that they weren’t being racist.

And the subprime mortgage was born.   Adjustable Interest Rate (ARM).  No documentation.  Zero down.  Interest only.  All kinds of creative financing to qualify the unqualified for mortgages.  And it was a hit.  Poor people liked them.  But banks were still reluctant to issue many of them.  Because they were far more risky than a conventional mortgage.  And it was dangerous to have too many of them on their books.  But then federal government solved that problem.

Fannie and Freddie enabled the Mortgage Lenders to Approve Risky Mortgages

Enter Fannie Mae and Freddie MacGovernment Sponsored Enterprises.  They would buy (or guarantee) those risky mortgages from the banks.  The banks breathed a huge sigh of relief.  Then started selling the crap out of subprime mortgages.  Because they were exposed to no risk thanks to Fannie and Freddie.  And the housing market took off.  The government urged Fannie and Freddie to lower their standards and buy even more risky mortgages.  To keep the housing boom alive.  And they did.  Not only were home owners snatching them up.  But speculators, too.  And the term ‘house flipping‘ entered the American lexicon.

Fannie and Freddie then repackaged the subprime mortgages they bought and resold them.  Into so-called ‘safe’ investments.  Thanks to being tied to a mortgage, historically one of the safest investments in America.  Well, they were when people were putting 20% down, at least.  So these mortgage back securities were created.  Reviewed by the credit-rating agencies.  And sold to investors, mutual funds, pension funds, 401(k)s, etc.  Who bought them with abandon.  Because they were rated AAA.  Long after those risky mortgages were written.

They were time bombs just waiting to go off.  Not because of the credit rating agencies.  But because of Fannie and Freddie.  Who enabled the mortgage lenders to approve risky mortgages with no risk to themselves.  And a long standing government policy to put as many people as possible into homes.  Because economic growth all came from home ownership.  And then it happened.  There was a housing bubble thanks to easy monetary policy.  The economy was heating up.  Worried about inflation, the Fed tapped the brakes.  Raised interest rates.  And all of those ARMs reset at higher rates.  People couldn’t afford the new higher monthly payments.  The higher interest rates left the speculators with lots of houses.  That they bought with no money down.  That no one was buying.  And, well, the rest you know.

The Greatest Threat to American Fiscal Solvency is the Government’s growing Health Care Tab 

So S&P didn’t cause the subprime mortgage crisis.  Whether they gave those securities AAA ratings or not those subprime mortgage holders were going to default anyway.  The origins of the subprime mortgage crisis reach a lot further back than S&P.  But their credibility did take a hit.  So they’re trying to be a little more cautious these days.  And if anyone paid attention during the debt ceiling debates, they know the country’s long-term finances are in some serious trouble.

Jeffrey Miron wrote a paper about the health of the U.S. states.  He starts in the introduction by going over the state of affairs in the federal government (see The Fiscal Health of U.S. States by Jeffrey Miron posted 8/15/2011 on Mercatus Center).

As the worldwide financial crisis has eased, economic policy debates have shifted from the short-term issue of stabilization to the log-term issue of fiscal imbalance.  Current projections suggests that the U.S. federal government faces an exploding ratio of debt to GDP, driven in large part by spending on health insurance1.  If this trend continues, the United States will soon find itself unable to roll over its debt and be force to default, generating a fiscal crisis.

————————————————————

1  U.S. Congressional Budget Office, “CBO’s 2011 Long-Term Budget Outlook” (Washington, DC: CBO, June 2011)

Perhaps this is why S&P downgraded U.S. debt.  Because that debt ceiling deal did nothing to address the greatest threat to American fiscal solvency.  The government’s growing health care tab.  The nation indeed may be seeing some difficult times.  As will the states.

This paper offers five conclusions. First, state government finances are not on a stable path; if spending patterns continue to follow those of recent decades, the ratio of state debt to output will increase without bound. Second, the key driver of increasing state and local expenditures is health-care costs, especially Medicaid and subsidies for health-insurance exchanges under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2009. Third, states have large implicit debts for unfunded pension liabilities, making their net debt positions substantially worse than official debt statistics indicate. Fourth, if spending trends continue and tax revenues remain near their historical levels relative to output, most states will reach dangerous ratios of debt to GDP within 20 to 30 years. Fifth, states differ in their degrees of fiscal imbalance, but the overriding fact is that all states face fiscal meltdown in the foreseeable future.

Not a pretty picture.  This whole European Socialism model is pushing both the states and the country to default.  Like it is currently pushing European nations toward default in the Eurozone.  Whose financial crisis is worst than America’s.  So far.

Keynesian Economics stimulated the Housing Market into the Granddaddy of all Housing Bubbles 

Social engineering.  Tax and spend liberalism.  Keynesian economics.   These are what gave us the subprime mortgage crisis.  Putting people into houses who couldn’t afford them.  And keeping interest rates artificially low to stimulate the housing market into the granddaddy of all housing bubbles.  The subprime mortgage crisis.  And more of the same will only push us further down the Eurozone road.  Sadly, a road often taken throughout history.  As once great nations fell, littering this road.  The Road to Serfdom.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,