Posted by Steve Markowitz on November 14, 2012
Now that the presidential election is over, the media has focused its attention on the so-called “Fiscal Cliff”. This event is artificial, a creation of President Obama and the Congress when they could not agree to a budget in the previous year. Obama and the Democrats wanted tax increases. The Congress, Republicans, wanted spending cuts. With neither side being willing to compromise, they did what politicians nearly always do: kicked the can down the road.
A “super-committee” of Republican and Democrat Congressman and Senators was created and given the task of creating a budget that would cut the deficit. They failed in the matter was punted back to the Congress and President with a restriction: if a budget was not agreed to by the end of 2012, significant spending cuts would automatically occur throughout the federal government and taxes would increase significantly for many.
So there we have it, another crisis created by government. Look for both sides to take the Country to the brink and then miraculously save us by once again by kicking the can down the road even further.
The various economic challenges facing the Country are the result of orgy-like spending since the early 1980s, both in the private and public sectors. Now, even with trillion dollar deficits the economy remains weak. The problem in the United States, and in most Western countries, is excessive debt. Significant economic growth cannot occur without reducing the debt, but reducing the debt will hurt the economy even more in the short run.
On a nearly daily basis it is reported that some state, municipality or other government agency/organization is in trouble. The Wall Street Journal added the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to the list. According to the Journal, for the first time in its 70 year history, the FHA will need a taxpayer bailout. This would be in addition to the nearly $140 billion of taxpayer money already given to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for mortgage related problems.
The FHA was created during Franklin Roosevelt’s Administration to promote homeownership for first-time buyers. This agency acted as an insurer of mortgages for mortgage providers. It remained solvent even through last decade’s housing bubble because it maintained sound lending practices. However, as the housing market took a nosedive after the bubble popped, the FHA relaxed its lending rules in another failed governmental attempt to prop up the housing market.
Currently, about 25% of the FHA’s mortgages guaranteed in 2007 and 2008 are delinquent. Over 700,000 of its loans are more than 90 days past due or in foreclosure. Should these mortgages fail, the FHA (taxpayers) could be on the hook for over $100 billion. However, its current reserve are only slightly more than $1 billion. Remarkably, because of the FHA’s status of having “permanent and indefinite” budget authority, these funds would automatically come from the U.S. Treasury if needed and would not require Congressional approval.
The FHA’s insolvent financial condition is emblematic of the public sectors debt problems. It is also an example of how politicians irresponsibly spend the peoples’ money. Finally, it is an example of how governmental policies often start with good intentions only to be corrupted by political influences and interference. The FHA had been one of the better run government agencies requiring over eight decades to become insolvent.
Posted in Government Ineptness, Government Waste | Tagged: Bailout, Federal Housing Administration, FHA, Mortages, Taxpayers | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Steve Markowitz on May 25, 2012
On February 9, 2012 this Blog posted Housing Market Damaged by Ongoing Governmental Interventions concerning Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and their roles in creating the housing market crash that led to 2008 global economic meltdown that is still ongoing. The ongoing housing downturn is the worst in since the Great Depression. United States government actions and interventions played a significant role in creating this mess.
In the 1934 the US government created the Federal Housing Authority. The FHA was a backstop for mortgages that led to lower borrowing costs, governmental subsidy to promote homeownership. The government’s actions were based the mistaken belief that home prices always increased making them a good investment for all Americans. The meltdown of 2008 proved this to be ridiculous thesis.
Like all governmental agencies, the FHA’s reach and authority increased with time. In 1977 Congress passed the Community Reinvestment Act promoting homeownership to lower income groups who could not afford mortgages. Then, in the 1990’s Congress pressured Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to offer loans to even higher risk buyers to further promote home ownership. While the interventions were made for supposed noble reasons, their benefits mainly benefited the home building and real estate industries. In addition, the policies led to inflated home prices making them bad investments especially for those that purchased homes in more recent years, the very group the governmental actions were suppose you help.
Finally, the government under the Bush and Obama Administrations pursued a dangerous low interest rate policy to further increase demand and consumption of all types of goods, including housing. Like an addiction, this drug no longer offers a high and the economic downturn continues irrespective of additional interventions.
Those who believe in and promote(d) the government’s interventions are culpable for the mess we face today. Progressives understand this and therefore deflect by creating the false narrative that the macroeconomic malady is merely the result of greedy capitalists. The video submitted below by Blog reader John helps show the Left’s complicity in creating the housing bubble and subjecting taxpayers to huge losses at Freddie Mae and Fannie Mac. It also shows that in opposite of the Left’s narrative, it was they who stop the Republicans from further regulating Freddie and Fannie. Excerpts from our congressmen include:
- Richard Baker, Rep. Louisiana – He predicted Fannie and Freddie failure in 2004 and called calls for more regulations on them.
- Maxine Waters, Dem. California – She said that no problems existed at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac under “outstanding leadership” of Mr. Franklin Raines and accused regulators of trying to fix something that wasn’t broke. Waters then praised Raines for exceeding GSE Performance and further attacks regulator for impeding affordable housing mission.
- Gregory Meeks, Dem. New York – Watch his irrational rant attacking a regulator trying to control Fannie and Freddie.
- Ed Royce, Rep. California – He pleads for more regulations on Fannie and Freddie.
- Lacy Clay, Dem. Missouri – “This hearing is about the political lynching of Franklin Raines” No problem with Freddie and Fannie soundness.
- Christopher Shays, Rep. Connecticut – Points out that that Fannie and Freddie were incredibly exempted from Sarbanes-Oxley act.
- Artur Davis, Dem. Alabama – Beats up on a regulator who attempted to put controls on Fannie and Freddie.
- Barney Frank, Dem. Mass. – Defended Freddie and Fannie incredibly stating that there were not issues with their “safety and soundness”.
- Don Manzullo, Rep. IL – Attacks Fannie and Freddie for skirting the rules so that they could pay huge bonuses to their executives.
Perhaps the worst character this sordid matter is Franklin Raines who headed Fannie Mae until being forced to retire in late 2004 after the SEC began investigating accounting irregularities. Raines, who received total salaries exceeding $90 million at Fannie is quoted: “These assets (houses) are so riskless, that their capital for holding them should be under 2%”. This incredible example of stupidity did not stop Barack Obama from looking to Raines for advice on the housing market.
For those who would question the Left’s culpability in creating the mortgage meltdown, the video concludes with Bill Clinton clearly stating that both he and the Democrats in Congress must accept responsibility in that they resisted any Republican efforts to tighten up of on Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.
This story is one of stupidity, greed, and the failure of government. It has been buried by a mainstream media that no longer does any investigative journalism, especially if it may place Progressive policies at risk. The Leftist politicians who manipulated the housing market are just as guilty as the mortgage brokers and bankers who took advantage of their ill-conceived policies.
Posted in Fannie Mae, Housing Market | Tagged: Artur Davis, Barney Frank, Bill Clinton, Christopher Shays, Community Reinvestment Act, Democrats, Don Manzullo, Ed Royce, Fannie Mae, Federal Housing Administration, FHA, Franklin Raines, Freddie Mac, Gregory Meeks, Housing, Interest Rates, Lacy Clay, Maxine Waters, Republicans, Richard Baker | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Steve Markowitz on February 14, 2012
The Wall Street Journal reported that the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) will run out of reserves this year for the first time in its 78 year history. Since the FHA has budget authority, it can go directly to the U.S. Treasury for funds without making a request of the Congress. This is another example of government spending of the People’s money without Constitutional authority.
The FHA was established by the US government during the 1930’s to help facilitate homeownership in America. This agency does not make housing loans, but instead insures lenders who make them. Since the housing meltdown, the FHA has had its charter substantially expanded, insuring borrowers who only can afford down payments of even less than 5%. While this type of intervention may have initially propped up the housing market in recent years, its easy and risky mortgages is cajoling buyers into making an economic decisions. Specifically, it offers incentives to low-income buyers to purchase homes that are likely to continue depreciating some years. This not only puts at risk the FHA’s (the People’s) money, but the underwater houses are a long-term financial burden for buyers.
Instead of recognizing the growing problem at the FHA, President Obama is again attempting to expanded its charter. Earlier this year the President proposed allowing underwater homeowners to refinance their mortgages through the FHA. This will place additional risks on the taxpayers since many of the refinanced homes will continue dropping in value with their mortgages ultimately becoming the responsibility of the U.S. Treasury.
People who cannot afford to pay their mortgages and whose home values are significantly underwater need to get out from under this financial burden and that will only occur by walking away from the homes, as distasteful as this is. The banks and government agencies that made the inappropriate loans need to eat those losses now so that the housing market can bottom and a true recovery can began. These losses to the banks and government agencies will also be a strong incentive to not repeat similar errors in the future. It also ensures that those that made the bad loans pay the price, not the bulk of Americans who stayed clear of imprudent financial behavior.
The problem with the housing market is an imbalance between supply and demand. Any government intervention merely prolongs the downturn as they do not address the imbalances. In fact they end up creating even more imbalances. Adding insult to injury, the FHA has become an important player in the mortgage and housing markets in recent years. When this agency ultimately retrenches in the housing market, as it ultimately must, its negative consequences on the economy will be huge, likely requiring an even large bailouts.
The FHA is another example of a failing governmental agency. While many private companies run into economic challenges and some even fail, their failure should be viewed as the market’s cleansing of inefficiency. While such occurrences are unhappy for the failed companies’ owners and employees, it is a healthy process for the overall economy. This reality was understood by Americans until we started down the slippery slope of bailouts that began before the Obama came to power. With these bailouts increasing in frequency and scope, it is easy to see that the path is unsustainable. However, like an addictive drug, stopping the juice is a painful process and politicians are willing to offer the medicine. The patient will have to get a lot sicker before appropriate treatment will be implemented. That day of reckoning is coming.
Posted in Bailouts, Housing Market | Tagged: Bailouts, Federal Housing Administration, FHA, Homes, Mortgages | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Steve Markowitz on May 12, 2011
There are various reasons behind the housing bubble and subsequent collapse that led to the largest financial crisis since the Great Depression. Those on the Left often focus blame on greed and Wall Street banks. While these issues played roles in the collapse, the United States government also helped sow the seeds for the meltdown.
Given the Progressives view that government can cure all societal issues, they conveniently ignore the role government played in housing boom and bust. For example, in 1977 Congress passed and President Jimmy Carter signed the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). This Act required banks to make loans and mortgages in all the areas that they serve. Progressives used this law to further their social goals that included giving more people the ability to obtain mortgages, irrespective of their ability to afford or repay them.
In addition, Congress pressured Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to lower lending standards in support of the government’s social goals. This artificially increased the housing demand, as well as housing prices. Then, when the market went very soft, this guaranteed that many home owners would be underwater and unable to continue paying their mortgages. This led to a downward spiral of foreclosures and declines in housing prices that continues to this day.
Now the Obama Administration is at it again. Since the subprime mortgage meltdown, loans to low-income people and those geographic areas in which they reside have substantially decreased. This is a natural free-market occurrence during a market downturn given that lending institutions tighten up standards. This is a good thing that helps insure that those who cannot afford mortgages do not get them, especially during a time when housing prices are dropping. This not only protects banks from making bad loans, but also protects individuals from buying depreciating homes that they cannot afford.
Progrssives, however, do not let economic realities interfere with their social agendas. As they often do, they explain economic realities in terms of social injustices. In the case of mortgage lending during the current downturn, they see racism.
Business Week has reported that the Federal Reserve cited Midwest BankCentre of St. Louis, MO for a practice known as “redlining”. During the depression, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) drew maps with red ink to delineate neighborhoods considered too risky for lending, often areas with high African-American populations. Congress has since banned this practice. Since Midwest BankCentre is located in a white suburb, as they have for 100 years, they have been cited for not issuing home mortgages or opening branches in minority dominated areas.
The Justice Department’s Thomas E. Perez stated the government’s position: “We are using every tool in our arsenal to combat lending discrimination.” What a lame statement. Banks are in the business of loaning money and making a profit, period! They care not who the money goes to or what color their skin might be.
We are not even three years post the economic implosion caused by subprime mortgage mess, a problem caused in part by the government’s meddling in the economy to promote social programs. The housing market is still in a tailspin with prices dropping. Now, the Obama Administration is once again meddling in the housing market to promote the same social agenda. Repeating the same failed policies and expecting defect results is truly insanity.
Posted in Governmental Intervention, Housing Market, Racism | Tagged: African-Americans, Banks, Bubble, Community Reinvestment Act, CRA, Fannie Mae, Federal Housing Administration, Federal Reserve, FHA, Freddie Mac, Government, Housing, Justice Department, Midwest BankCentre, Mortgages, Obama, Thomas E. Perez | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Steve Markowitz on February 19, 2011
Commercial banks are requiring home buyers to come up with more down money for mortgages. This is a natural result of a marketplace that got out of balance during the housing bubble.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the median down payment has risen from a mere 4% in 2006 to 22% on conventional mortgages, similar to what was required in the more sane times of the mid 1990’s. While this increase will continue to depress hosing prices with fewer people able to obtain mortgages, it will stop another housing bubble from occurring. It will also bring supply and demand for homes back into balance. Finally, it will help insure that banks get repaid on mortgages made, a novel concept.
The federal government has had a schizophrenic reaction to the more rational behavior of the mortgage markets. The Obama administration last week indicated that it will seek to raise the minimum mortgage down payments to 10% on conventional loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. However, private lenders are already ahead of this curve. At the same time the federal government offers loopholes for mortgages obtained through agencies such as the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), requiring only 3.5% up front. The FHA makes up half of today’s home mortgages.
The government used the housing bubble to heat up the American economy to 2006 at the expense of our economy today. By promoting cheap mortgages with low down money, as well as home ownership to those that could not afford them, they artificially increased home values. These increased values were then used by home owners to use phantom equity to barrow and ultimately spend more than they could afford. The financial meltdown and ongoing economic challenges are prices we continue to pay for these bad polices.
Private greed played a role in creating the housing bubble and resulting financial meltdown. However, this greed could not have been acted upon at the level reached without the government’s intervention into the mortgage markets. Should the government continue intervening in the housing market in the name of lessening the public’s pain, future economic imbalances will be just as catastrophic as those that resulted from its previous interventions.
Posted in Governmental Intervention, Supply and Demand | Tagged: Banks, Bubbles, conventional mortgages, Equity, Fannie Mae, Federal Housing Administration, FHA, Freddie Mac, Homes, Mortages | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Steve Markowitz on September 14, 2010
The American economy continues to be in distress. While many point to the fall of Lehman Brothers two years ago as the starting point for this downturn, the causes began much earlier. While the problems began long before the election of Barack Obama, he has been responsible for not allowing the economy to rebalance itself, a requirement before real recovery can occur.
The Right often blames the liberal policies of Democrats for the socialization of the American economy and a major cause of our economic problems. Many on the Left blame the free-market and lack of government oversight for the downturn. Both narratives are overly simplistic and incorrect. Both political parties took the same basic macroeconomic approach, i.e. excessive debt and having government become more intrusive in the economy, but placing a different spins on it.
Irrespective of the party in power, excessive private and governmental debt was used that led to the severity of the ongoing economic downturn. With governmental debt, Republicans often justified the debt by promoting military spending while Democrats promoted social programs. Both parties also approved governmental policies that promoted more private debt including subsidizing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and pressuring the Fed to lower interest rates whenever the economy had a hiccup. While each side found their justifications for the debt reasonable, from a macroeconomic standpoint the results were the same.
Both parties also made government more intrusive in the economy; Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Capitalism, Governmental Intervention, Supply and Demand | Tagged: Capitalists, Deborah Soloman, Debt, Democrats, economy, Fannie Mae, Federal Housing Administration, Freddie Mac, Free Market, Ivy Zelman, left, Lehman Brothers, Macroeconomic, Mortages, Nick Timiraos, Obama, Republicans, Right, Supply & Demand, Susan Wachter, Tea Party, Tim Geithner | 3 Comments »