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Thursday, October 16, 2014

SEVEN YEARS LATER, WHO IS TO BLAME FOR THE CREDIT CRISIS CAUSED BY THE RESIDENTIAL REALTY BUBBLE? THE U.S. CONGRESS.

Most chucklehead laugh-track TV-watching Americans would like to blame who they believe are evil commercial bankers for the credit crisis of 2008.

Most Americans are bamboozled by politicians. Politicians are too smart for Americans. Politicians easily trick Americans with speeches and TV performances.

The true culprits of the residential realty fueled credit crisis were the men and women of the U.S. Congress,  the Congressmen of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senators of the U.S. Senate.

Successive U.S. Congresses make all the rules through their law, directly and through their agencies, which they authorize. Successive U.S. Congresses caused the residential realty crisis and largest credit bubble in U.S. history through their agencies.

The U.S. Congress through its agencies bundled up mortgages into securities known as mortgage-backed securities (MBS) and hired investment bankers to broker those securities. Successive U.S. Congresses created Government Sponsored Enterprises, GSEs, which make MBS. These GSEs are the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae), Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) and Federal Agricultural Mortgage Corporation (Farmer Mac).

Another player for the U.S. Congress, the Government National Mortgage Association (Ginnie Mae) did not issue MBS. However, Ginnie Mae technocrats provided backing for MBS by guaranteeing investors the timely payment of principal and interest on MBS backed by federally insured or guaranteed loans — mainly loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) or guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

When all hit the fan, the U.S. Congress made for-profit Private Mortgage Conduits into their scapegoats. A PMC is a firm created to purchase and pool house loans and ready such for sale as securities. PMCs are the private sector equivalents of the GSEs. In the period of 2003 to 2007, PMCs were affiliates of major firms — GMAC Mortgage, Bear Stearns, Citimae of Citicorp, Countrywide, GE Capital Mortgage, Prudential, Ryland.

According to the Federal Reserve, from their own numbers on Mortgage Pools or Trusts, from 2003 to 2007, the outstanding principal balances of mortgage-backed securities insured or guaranteed by GSEs grew 48.1%, growing at a rate of 8.2% a year. In the same period, the outstanding principal balances of mortgage-backed securities of PMCs grew at an eye-poping 242%, growing at 27.9% a year!

It is from these figures that laying blame on PMCs seemed all too easy. What was a 79%-21% split at the start of Q1 2003 became a 60%-40% split by Q4 2007.

However, for every $1 of PMC MBS, there was $1.35 of GSE MBE. Total Congress involvement through GSE and direct agencies Ginnie Mae and the FHA came to $1.50 for every $1 of PMC MBS.

Said another way, Congress involvement was one-and-a-half times that of PMCs. Congress involvement in MBS and MBS guarantees between 2003 and 2007 was 50% bigger than all private involvement combined.

Of course, members of successive Congresses couldn't have done this without having enough voters put them into office. They could not have gotten those voters without first either giving them or appealing to their desire for welfare — Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, SNAP, TANF, Section 8, Pell and many more programs.

During the residential realty credit bubble, there were far too many who borrowed way too much, well beyond what their incomes could support, overpaying way too much for houses they could not afford at the selling prices they should not have paid. Far too many played the game of "getting rich quick" by flipping taking out even bigger mortgages using the proceeds of each flip to buy cars and luxury vacations.

Ah, greed — striving to get something without giving up something in trade — is a horrible error. Oh so many borrowers were greedy with their big eyes seeing dollar signs as they  became flipping realty for big profit geniuses. It's hard to have sympathy for people driven by greed.

Commercial bankers weren't greedy. Commercial bankers sold a product — their credit — and bought a right of action in a purchase and sale from those seeking mortgages. Bankers played by the rules.

People buying houses, taking out HELOCs to buy shiny new BMWs, Mercedes and Ford Expeditions, cars that were once priced beyond their incomes, reckoning they could pay off their HELOCs when they flipped their houses for higher prices, well, that's greedy.

Far too many borrowed too much, many of whom never should have borrowed ever based on their incomes and the potential for price rises in other necessities. As soon as gasoline prices hit highs, many couldn't pay mortgages and drive to work. A little thing like rising gasoline prices drove them to default and technical bankruptcy.

Investors buying mortgage-backed securities, which bundled mortgages based on faulty interpretation of statistics, suckered by blue-skies sales pitches, well, that was stupid. MBS investors were stupid.

And for the last seven years, Federal Reserve central bankers have been taking on these junk MBS, effectively bailing out the previous owners of MBS.



American borrowers were greedy. Blaming businessmen for engaging in business puts the blame where no one should.

Here is an interesting graphic published by the New York Times.