A "Lost Decade" Ahead for Home Owners -- Just So Banks Won't Take a Bigger Hit on Their Garbage Mortgages
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In its effort to rescue the housing market, the Obama administration has created a Frankensystem which neither allows the market to clear nor solves the intractable social problems of lost equity and foreclosure. Obama needs to step-back and take a look at the mess he's made by following the advice of financial industry reps and bank lobbyists. Housing is in a shambles. The market is presently stitched together with buyer-assistance programs, loan modifications programs, new homebuyer subsidies, foreclosure abatement programs, principal reduction programs, historic low interest rates, "easy-term" financing, and government-backed loans. It's a veritable dog's breakfast of inducements, giveaways and bandaids all designed with one purpose in mind; to keep the banks from taking a bigger hit on their garbage mortgages. To get an idea of how desperate the situation really is; take a look at this eye-popping article in the Wall Street Journal:
"The U.S. government's massive share of the nation's mortgage market grew even larger during the first quarter. Government-related entities backed 96.5% of all home loans during the first quarter, up from 90% in 2009, according to Inside Mortgage Finance. The increase was driven by a jump in the share of loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-owned housing-finance giants....
The collapse of the mortgage market in 2007 steered more business to the Federal Housing Administration, which insures loans, and Fannie and Freddie, which were taken over by the government in 2008 as rising losses wiped out thin capital reserves. Congress also increased the limits on the size of loans that Fannie, Freddie and the FHA can guarantee, raising the ceiling to as high as $729,750 in high-cost housing markets such as New York and California. ("U.S. Role in Mortgage Market Grows Even Larger" Nick Timiraos, Wall Street Journal)
There is no housing market in the U.S. apart from the government. The Potemkin banking system is still on the rocks, so Fannie and Freddie have been forced to pick up the slack. But if the government is going to put up all the financing, then it should have a bigger say-so on the way things are run. The emphasis should be on helping people, not on more handouts for the banks.
The first order of business should be the launching of a National Bank that would help support the privately-owned banking system. This would ensure the availability of credit for prospective homeowners and small businesses without putting more pressure on Fannie and Freddie. The National Bank would operate as a public utility run by government employees. That would help to control salaries, eliminate the problem executive compensation and incentives, and reduce the incidents of fraud.
Naturally, the banks will oppose the move tooth and nail, so its up to Obama to guide the legislation through the congress. This is matter of national security. The banks now pose a threat to the materiel well-being of everyone in the country. They're a menace. While a National Bank won't undo the massive damage that's already been done; it will put the economy on the road to recovery by creating a reliable source of credit for any future expansion without inflating another humongous asset bubble.
As the WSJ's report reveals, the banks don't have the capital to function as banks. So, what good are they? They're merely wards of the state. Obama should bypass this sclerotic system of corruption-plagued institutions altogether and do what needs to be done while the economy is still weak. That way, the new National Bank will be up-and-running by the time economic activity begins to pick up again.