23 September 2008

The Root of All Evil

It's interesting to see the candidates trying to bloody each other over who's at fault for this Housing mess. The real root of the Problem is Bill Clinton, the problem however, is that most American's are so short sighted that they can't believe that someone who served so long ago, is still having an impact on our economy. Consider this though, before Bill Clinton's policy changes, if a bank was going to underwrite a loan to you or anyone else, it had to make the vast majority of these loans out to strict policy guidelines set by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Income had to be verified, if there were no W2's there had to be at least 2 years of Tax Returns verifying your income. Credit had to be at least reasonably good and a strong 5 to 10% or better down payment was generally required (depending on Credit). If there was no income verification, and no tax returns, the only way it could be done was with a hefty 25% down payment. The reasons behind this was simple, if the bank could not sell the loan to investors, the bank was stuck with the loan for the life of the loan. Most banks had Community Reinvestment programs where they would allocate possibly 1% of local profits to go to low income families or no doc type loans, but generally these types of loans were very few and far between. Also, if you had a good relationship with the bank, they might do Investment loans for you, since they figured you would sell the home in a fairly short period of time and they would get their cash back. Finally, cities often put together Community Development loans offered to first time home buyers that often required no more than 1 to 3% down and were generally available at reduced interest rates. The vast majority of these "risky" loans though were simply not forwarded to Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae and Investors. They knew that these types of loans would undermine confidence in the system.

Clinton Chages the Game:
The Clinton Administration had a goal of making housing affordable to more people and so they made some very basic and fundamental changes at Freddie Mac and Fannie mae that basically said that these two companies could now start taking these types of "No Doc" loans that would usually only be available with a significant down payment The argument was that there were a lot of people that were self employed as Painters, Tile Setters, and other service professions making decent money, but writing off a lot of their personal expenses as Business expenses. These people could definitely afford to keep up with their mortgage payments even if they didn't have w2's. While that may have been the target audience, the abuses that happened when people thought they could buy homes for the sole purpose of flipping them was an unintended consequence. For nearly a decade after these regulation changes were made, they seemed to be working just as intended, but at some point the abuses started and as Wall Street saw money to be made, they jumped in with both feet into the bandwagon.

The last banking crisis 18 years ago (the Savings and Loan Mess) taught investors that the only S&L's that were saved from the mess were the ones who invested most of their cash in Home Mortgages, so they figured that this time would be the same thing. Unfortunately, they didn't realize that the rules had changed and this was now a different game.
The biggest problems came when the very same institutions that were supposed to be monitored by Congress started becoming some of it's biggest campaign contributors. These guys basically started cooking the books to make sure the Companies hit targets required to trigger their Bonuses. McCain began to blow the wistle on this 2 years ago, but of course no one listened, since they were doling out cold hard cash to practically everyone in Congress that had anything to do with thier oversight. Obama was one of the biggest beneficiaries of this money and he now acts as if McCain is somehow to blame, when McCain is the only one on record trying to stop these guys!

You Want It, We've Got It

There are those who say that the Bible says that Money is the root of all evil, but that's not what it says in the Bible. What it says is that "The Love of money" is the root of all evil. Well this love fest got just a bit out of control didn't it.


  1. i was in the mortgage industry for 15 years. a real basic problem was changing the intrest rate credit card compnies could charge. this led to 35% rates and huge run ups in debt for low income borrowers who covered their debts by mortgage refinances-then going out and spending another 70,000.$
    jiohn b abbott

  2. Yes, that was definitely another issue. What's funny is that everyone is up in arms over the Oil Companies making Billions, when a closer look shows that they're only "profiting" about 7% on Revenue, in other words, "Yes, they're making Billions, but they're Pouring Hundreds of Billions into Operations". Credit Card companies in the meantime are raking in profits of 18 to 25%!


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