Here are the recent headlines of this crisis:
"WASHINGTON -- The federal government is working on a sweeping series of programs that would represent perhaps the biggest intervention in financial markets since the 1930s, embracing the need for a comprehensive approach to the financial crisis after a series of ad hoc rescues. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson announced plans Friday to quickly set up a "bold" government program to take over troubled mortgage assets from financial institutions, along with other efforts to step up the purchase of mortgage-backed securities. "The federal government must implement a program to remove these illiquid assets that are weighing down our financial institutions and threatening our economy," Mr. Paulson said in prepared remarks for a press conference."
I tend to agree with Lupita. The blame for this economic downfall is Greed, good old fashioned American Greed! Here is my view of why we are in the mess we are in. From 2002 to 2007, countless mortgage companies, many of them "no-name", mailed me and everyone else I know mortgage offers. "Refinance Now!" read the headlines. TV and Radio ads heralded the same "Refinance Now!" Remember the annoying Ditech commercials? Everyone was pushing these loans. I remember my daughter in law speaking of a friend of a friend who was in the mortgage game and selling mortgages from her house. She said anyone could afford a house now and if we were ever in the market for a new mortgage or refinance, they would get us a good "deal." (Everybody and their brother had a friend of a friend like this pushing and pushing these predatory loans).
I also remember a peer from work who lived in a pricey California neighborhood. She and her new husband decided to purchase one of those "interest only" loans for her very pricey $400K, 2B condo. I asked how she could do that. Why didn´t she try to move to a more affordable location. She said her mortgage person persuaded her it was affordable and with property being so valuable in that area, reselling would be easy. I told her I was nervous for her and I would never buy a home without a conventional mortgage. She called me a worry wart. Now I think about her and that balloon mortgage. How many others are foreclosing now because now they can´t refinance their ballooned mortgages and they can no longer afford their tripled or quadrupled monthly rates?
I remember the phone calls from the telemarketers. They were relentless in trying to sell, sell, sell these new mortgages. My mailbox was always full of offers. Again, this started in 2002-2003. I ask everyone to use their own memory on when these changes happened. Don´t rely on someone else who wants to scapegoat.
Why is it important to remember what happened and the timing? Because then you can pinpoint for yourself who is primarily accountable. (besides our greedy selves).
Politicians from both sides are busy trying to point fingers at one another. The most ludicrous accusations were from Republican politicians who pointed to legislation from the Clinton era stopping the heinous act of "redlining." Redlining, for those who may not know, is the practice of denying or increasing the cost of services to residents in certain, often racially determined, areas. The most devastating, mortgage discrimination. So the right wing nuts try to point to the anti-redlining legislation as the root cause. Ludicrous.
If one were to point towards any legislation that most contributed to this turn of economic events they would point to the "Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000." This legislation provided certainty that products offered by banking institutions would not be regulated as futures contracts. This law creates a LOOPHOLE for many GOP cronies (e.g. Enron) which exempts most over-the-counter energy trades and trading on electronic energy commodity markets. The "loophole" was drafted by Enron Lobbyists working with Senator Phil Gramm (Sen. McCain´s best friend) seeking a deregulated atmosphere for their new experiment, "Enron On-line". The act specifically banned regulation of credit default swaps. These unregulated instruments, insurance policies against default on risky investments like mortgage backed securities.
This is very important to understand. Mortgage companies were NO LONGER REGULATED nor were they accountable for risky mortgages. They often sold these "risks" to foreign lenders.
HR5660 and S.3283 were introduced in December 2000 by Republicans: Sen Phil Gramm, Sen Charles Hagel, Sen Peter Fitzgerald Rep Tom Ewing, Rep Tom Bliley, Rep Larry Combest, Rep James Leach, with some Dem support including Rep LaFalce and Sens Harkin and Johnson. These bills were NEVER debated in the House or the Senate. Since then, several attempts have been made to overturn them. While these bills were championed by the Republicans, they did have some support by some Democrats, so we cannot point blame at one party. Since then however, several attempts (championed by the Dems) have been made to overturn this act. In fact, an attempt to repeal the policy was vetoed by President Bush in 2008.
However, beyond legislation, the plain facts are, the primary root cause is Greed and Corruption. Here is what Robert Reich said about Fannie and Freddie:
Fannie and Freddie, as Predicted
"Apologists will say that Fannie and Freddie exist to make housing loans to low-income Americans, so it was inevitable that the two giants would get caught in the quagmire of the housing burst. But the fact is, Fannie and Freddie -- and the executives who ran them and still run them -- have been out to maximize profits. Period. Just the same as every other mortgage and investment bank. High-risk sub-prime loans offered a higher rate of return, so Fannie and Freddie went into them big time. And because of the implicit government guarantee, Fannie and Freddie could take on even more risks and make even more money. Until now. It's another case of socialized capitalism, folks. The largest, yet. Along with making lots of money for investors and their executives, Fannie and Freddie corrupted our political process. They blocked any attempt to reign in the risks. Their lobbyists were and are the most sophisticated and among the most ubiquitous in Washington."
On Fannie & Freddie Accounting Gimmicks
Accounting gimmicks first came to light at Fannie and Freddie in 2003, at which time Fannie's and Freddie's former CEOs were sacked. Why, then, did they continue for another five years, even under new CEOs, even after policymakers first learned of them? Three reasons: (1) Top executives and shareholders continued to profit from them so there was no incentive to stop them, (2) everyone involved kept expecting home values to continue to rise -- or, when they fell, rise again soon enough -- to make up for the accounting shortfalls, and (3) Fannie and Freddie continued to be in bed with Congress and the administration. Democrats and Republicans alike have been complicit in this outrage.
Now, we are told, we have no recourse but to rescue these companies, otherwise we risk a Depression far worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s. The $700B plan Secretary Paulson is championing should be reviewed by every American. This Rescue Plan will bill the American Taxpayers trillions of dollars. This bail out for $700 BILLION dollars (probably trillions) our children and our grandchildren will be in debt for the next several decades. Additionally, the initial draft of this proposal is only bailing out the companies and their investors, NOT the citizens with mortgages. The Dems are asking that the citizens (who took these risky loans) be bailed out as well. The plans are being put in place now. We ALL should study them so we know what we are asking our grandkids to support.
I find the timing of these events incredible. These crises happen just months before the end of the Bush Presidency. He is bailing out his friends and his cronies now, before the Republicans are out of office. How many more of these type of coincidents will we see?
1. Mortgage Co. Bailout
2. Gas prices through the roof ($5)
3. Nafta-Cafta extended to other countries
4. (I am sure there are many more... we should start a list.)