Saturday, August 25, 2007

Blame the Victim Rules the Subprime Debacle

Anyone get the impression as I do that the scene is being set for placing the blame for the economic crisis on those hapless people who were so inconsiderate as to put everyone at risk by actually taking advantage of what they saw as the opportunity to get their piece of the pie? Yes folks, the reason the wheels of high finance are now gumming up is you or your neighbours utter selfishness in wanting a decent roof over the heads of your families. How thoughtless and unpatriotic of you to throw caution to the wind.

Max Wolff notes the mindlessness that has become a feature of commentary on the financial crisis where mouthing "subprime" a sufficient number of times seems to absolve anyone from actual analysis. The following from Credit Backwash August 21, 2007

"Every day we watch people blame sub-prime. Sub-prime is neither contained nor, is it the essence of present trouble. Discussing sub-prime as the cause of asset re-pricing has become ubiquitous. I would liken this line of explanation to the way that American urban violence is often discussed as "gang related" or "drug related". In short, it is a lazy catch all employed to avoid scratching below the surface. ..."

The truth is it seems that it's not only in the housing mortgage sector that 'liar loans' have been the fashion.

"A huge credit bubble exists and extends far beyond sub prime mortgage distress. The global bubble is enormous and has many sub-component bubblettes. The internationalization, integration and expansion of finance extended and distributed the effects of overly cheap and easy credit. Innovation of new products, thin opaque markets in credit vehicles and voracious appetite for leveraged yield have transformed balance sheets and portfolios. This mountain of gas soaked rags was ignited by the credit concerns in sub prime. Now the credit bubble is burning. Years of euphoria, easy money and asset inflations built to dizzying heights. Massive, cheap and easy debt was taken on to buy houses, currencies, bonds, equities, mortgages, leveraged loans, credit default swaps, real goods and services. Credit burdens were taken lightly, rolled over, bundled and sold. As long as lenders, buyers, ratings agencies and faith held, bubbles formed and swelled. The size, volatility and interconnectedness of international asset inflation was unprecedented. The downturn has been similarly correlated. Sub-prime credits and the collateralized mortgage obligations comprised of them deflated- the match was struck. The fire is never really caused simply or exclusively by the match that lights it.

All these innovative new mortgages were written because there was great money to be made in bundling them into mortgage backed securities (MBS) and collateralized mortgage obligations (CMO). Lenders cashed in on a "originated to distribute" bonanza. All types of finance companies wrote mortgages- and many other types of credit contracts - only to sell them off. A popular final destination was in collateralized obligations. This industry swelled as trillions of dollars in mortgages were written over the past few years. Every obstacle to further lending was innovated around to allow profits to continue to flow. The risks of all this lending were less pressing as mortgages loans were made to be sold- not held. All the available credit bid up house prices and led to the false conclusion that houses were always safe, appreciating assets. Questionable loans and sub-prime mortgages were sold and reconfigured into AAA rated product. Risk vanished from consideration and discussion. Transformed mortgages became credit vehicles and were sold all over the world. Part of the mad dash now involves finding these hidden gems hiding on books and ascertaining their real value."

Meanwhile over at the Pundit's Blog Brent Budowsky tells it to America straight: Gilded Age Crime: Poor Go Homeless, Wealthy Get Bailouts

"Is it right that the new racket on Wall Street is that banks make bad loans, sell them to hedge funds and private equity firms, many of whom are virtually unregulated and untaxed, who then complain about their pain after they foreclose on average Americans for falling a little behind their payments?

It is good that today the Fed cut the prime by 50 points, but it is bad, and terribly wrong and unjust, that in the last week the Fed has essentially used Americans' money to bail out the wealthy who made the profits, while doing zero for the foreclosed and homeless.

When the banks, hedge funds and private equity firms make bad deals, they keep the personal profits, while the corporate profits are protected by bailouts. Meanwhile, when the average Americans in the middle class, or the poor, fall a little behind, they get the boot, they lose their jobs, they are thrown into the street without homes and often without food."

And don't ya just love the reasoning on RESPONSIBILITY that goes with the line of argument that runs, subprime borrowers who made bad decisions based on insufficient knowledge of what they were getting into should BE HELD RESPONSIBLE for those decisions even if this means losing their homes. Who cares if they're on the streets since that won't affect the economy. All they do is produce products services. But investors who made bad decisions based on insufficient knowledge of the real values of their investments should .... NOT BE HELD RESPONSIBLE for their decisions and should be bailed out by the taxpayer. They must at all costs be protected from losses. Their coupon clipping and 'premia' are essential to the economy.

I think this is known as one law for the rich and another for the poor.


Catherine said...

Hi! I work at a foreclosures site. At this point where the foreclosures problem has reached a crisis level, many people are realizing that unscrupulous where preying on marginal income earners by offering them deals too tempting too resist. Unfortunately it ran all the way to Wall Street and affected big companies too. And you are not alone in your observations, some analysts have grudgingly observed that greed was not limited to those lenders alone. It ran all the way to Wall Street, which is why they were hit big too.

Ishith said...


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