Fannie and Freddie Tab Could Hit $363 Billion

Posted by Jason | Posted in Economics, Government | Posted on 21-10-2010


According to the Wall Street Journal, the tax payer may be looking at another $363 billion bailout, but this time just for Fannie and Freddie.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s regulator said Thursday that the companies could end up costing the government $363 billion as they absorb losses from bad mortgages.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s regulator said Thursday that the companies could end up costing the government $363 billion.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency ran stress tests under varying scenarios. The best case, with improving housing prices, saw the government-sponsored mortgage operators drawing a cumulative $221 billion in taxpayer money. If house prices drop, the bill would hit $363 billion.

“These are not predictions; the results reflect the potential effects of a limited set of hypothetical changes in house prices, a key variable driving credit losses for the enterprises,” said FHFA Acting Director Edward DeMarco.

To date, Fannie and Freddie have drawn $148 billion from the Treasury Department under the Preferred Stock Purchase Agreements program. The government took over the two enterprises in September 2008 as they faced a financial crunch.

via Fannie, Freddie Tab Could Hit $363 Billion –

Why are tax payers on the hook? If these GSEs wanted to act like businesses with their profits and their million dollar pay packages for the executives, then they should be handled like the rest of the private sector, where you go bankrupt if you run your business into the ground. Of course, that won’t happen. The reason that won’t happen is the other banks, you know the ones that surround Obama, use Fannie and Freddie to sell off their crappy mortgages. They want their profits now, and they want the tax payer to take the long term risk. Add to that, the amount of money being made by those who are in government one day and running these GSEs the next, making millions of dollars a  year in the process, and it’s no wonder they won’t let these criminal institutions go under.

Does the media explain it to you that way? Of course not. They make it seem like something has to be done to save these GSEs, and they just pass the government propaganda along to the public. Jefferson was right. If I had to choose a government with no press or press with no government, I’d choose the latter. We currently have the former, so can we give the latter a shot now?

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Meltdown by Thomas E. Woods Jr – The best explanation of our current financial crisis

Posted by Jason | Posted in Economics, Video | Posted on 28-01-2010


This is from a lecture Tom Woods gave about his book, Meltdown. Tom is an awesome presenter and makes boring topics entertaining. By the end of the lecture, you will understand exactly who caused the mortgage meltdown, the financial crisis and our current recession.

This is a Youtube playlist, so the next part will automatically start. It’s a little over an hour for the full lecture.


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Here we go again….Alan S. Blinder: When Greed Is Not Good

Posted by Jason | Posted in Economics | Posted on 12-01-2010


Alan S. Blinder wrote another half witted op-ed about financial regulation and Wall Street’s return to “greed”. As all half witted intellectuals, he recognizes a symptom, but never questions the source. Here is a paragraph where he talks about Adam Smith.

When economists first heard Gekko’s now-famous dictum, “Greed is good,” they thought it a crude expression of Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand”—which is one of history’s great ideas. But in Smith’s vision, greed is socially beneficial only when properly harnessed and channeled. The necessary conditions include, among other things: appropriate incentives (for risk taking, etc.), effective competition, safeguards against exploitation of what economists call “asymmetric information” (as when a deceitful seller unloads junk on an unsuspecting buyer), regulators to enforce the rules and keep participants honest, and—when relevant—protection of taxpayers against pilferage or malfeasance by others. When these conditions fail to hold, greed is not good.

via Alan S. Blinder: When Greed Is Not Good –

Binder says “in Smith’s vision, greed is socially beneficial only when properly harnessed and channeled”, and I’m guessing he thinks the geniuses in Washington should be the ones to do the harnessing and channeling. Is Binder really this ignorant, or is he so trapped in his own reality that he can’t see past his old ideas? By giving Washington the power to “harness and channel” Wall Street, the economy or anything else, you create the source of corruption. Washington has become Wall Street. Look at who occupies the White House staff. This isn’t just Obama. This was Bush as well.

Greed is only harmful to society when the negative results of greed are forced on society instead of the source of the greed. In this case, Wall Street’s greed led to subprime mortgages, but instead of them being harmed by the negative results, they used government force to dish the negative results on the tax payers.

People aren’t typically greedy, despite all the negative comments by the like of Blinder. Something usually entices you into greed. Someone sees the chance of unearned profits, and they get…. well “greedy” for it. In this case, Wall Street got greedy because the Fed was printing “free” money. Who benefits from this money? Well, the banks are the ones who get the money first before it’s devalued. They get to loan it out and make their profit before the damage is done. In their ability to do this, because of the Fed, would they not be making unearned profits? It would be no different than a man giving you $1,000 and saying go ahead lend that out at whatever interest rate you can to make a profit. You pay the man back one percent interest and keep the rest. You really don’t have any risk there. Inflation is typically three to four percent. Hmm, just think how much you can make with no risk if you make even more of these loans. What if you loaned out $1 million? Now you can see where greed comes from.

If we didn’t have the Fed in bed with Wall Street bankers, we wouldn’t have had the easy money that created the last bubble in which Wall Street so enriched themselves. Then when the bubble burst did Wall Street have to take their punishment? Nope. Because of government force and collusion, they were able to force all of America to pay the bill.

What Blinder doesn’t understand is the problem isn’t an unregulated “invisible hand”. The problem is because of government the “invisible hand” now has a gun in it. When there is a gun, this is when “greed is not good”.

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More Bad Ideas From The Job Summit

Posted by Jason | Posted in Economics, Government | Posted on 05-12-2009


In order to appear as if he’s doing something, Obama held the “Jobs Summit” at the White House. Here are some of the ideas that are supposed to help small business.

On Thursday, about 130 small-business owners, financial experts, union leaders, economists and CEOs from across the country convened at the White House to discuss their best ideas for stimulating job growth — and staving off another uptick in the unemployment rate, which climbed to 10.2% in October.

While many small-business owners and advocates welcome the attention being paid to boosting employment, there were plenty of skeptics in attendance. Some complained that sustained economic recovery — not new jobs bills — are needed to kick-start hiring. Others pointed out that job losses have already moderated in recent months, and called into question the necessity of any moves.

I wonder how quickly the guys who questioned the need for any government involvement were thrown out of the room. Maybe we’ll see them on TV today as the Job Summit Crashers.

Work-Share Tax Credit

A jobs-sharing initiative, which already exists in 17 states, has gained traction among several members of Congress. In August, Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro (D., Conn.) introduced the Keep Americans Working Act, which would allow employers to reduce their employees’ hours in order to hire new workers to pick up the slack. Although employees’ hours would be reduced, their pay would remain the same, as the government would pay the balance. Notably, Paul Krugman, economist and Nobel prize winner, also backed the work-share idea.

They must be looking to Europe’s job market for this idea. Europe has instituted ideas like this in the past and made it illegal to have anyone work over a certain number of hours. This is supposed to spread the hours out among more workers. It’s a stupid idea. It does not take into account all the cost involved. For example, if I have a guy who has been working for several years, he knows how to do his job. I know what his productivity is. If I cut his hours back and hire a new person, that person needs trained, doesn’t know the job, and is less efficient. My company’s productivity will have declined. Not only that, I have to deal with a new person. I know my current employee and his work habits. I know if he’s late, takes days off, has family issues, etc. I have no clue what kind of person I may be bringing in that has to be able to produce as much as my current employee. I also have to deal with another person’s benefits, health-care, etc. Will this person cost me more in health care when government passes health care legislation? Will he drive up my unemployment, because I’m more likely to have to lay him off if the economy declines again? These are all concerns that this does not address.

What it does do is steal money from tax payers and give it to businesses so one person doesn’t have to work a normal work week. This is just crazy. You take money from people who work full-time to give it to another person who you are taking hours from in order to hire someone who is unproductive. Do they realize wealth is based on what is produced, not jobs.

Jobs Tax Credit

By contrast, jobs tax credits are largely welcomed by small-business advocates and economists. One plan from the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington-based research organization focused on labor issues, calls for the government to provide refundable tax credits of 10% to 15% against payroll taxes for each new hire over two years.

Isn’t social security and medicare already bankrupt? How does it help long term to take money away from them? I’m all for getting rid of them both, but that isn’t going to happen. Instead, this just leads to more government debt. Also, 15% of a new hire’s payroll tax is not that much incentive. You typically aren’t going to pay a new hire much money, and the company’s share of payroll taxes is 7.5% of their salary. How much incentive is 15% of 7.5% of their salary going to provide? I maybe reading this wrong, but that is how I read this proposal.

If I have this write, here is what it would look like. You hire a new employee and pay him $30,000 a year. You pay $2250 a year in payroll taxes on him. You get a tax credit back in the amount of 15% of his payroll tax, which is $337.50. Wow, let’s start hiring. Even if they are looking at the entire payroll tax, which is around 15%, it still doesn’t provide much incentive. The new hire seems pretty risky in today’s environment, and a few hundred dollars sure isn’t going to change that equation.

‘Cash for Caulkers’

Former President Bill Clinton and others have suggested a cash-for-clunkers style initiative that would task construction workers and contractors with weatherizing homes. By employing unspent stimulus funds, Clinton’s plan, popularly known as “cash for caulkers,” involves weatherizing houses and apartments, as well as commercial and industrial buildings. Depending on how many property owners take up the initiative, the plan could not only provide jobs to the hard-hit construction sector, it would limit carbon emissions and reduce owners’ energy costs.

Does this sounds like money down the drain or what? I can just imagine the scamming that is going to take place by a group of people, that while many are the salt of the earth, many others are about as shady as you can get. Believe me. I’ve worked construction for my dad when I was in high school and when I got laid off in the tech bubble. This is going to lead to scamming old people, the government, and all of society in general. Then again, maybe I’ll start a fake caulking business and make some extra income.

Public Works Projects

Similarly, a range of economists and nonprofits support instituting some form of directed public jobs works programs. Similar to Depression-era New Deal jobs programs, the government could create jobs in targeted places that have high unemployment. The focus would be on rebuilding infrastructure for roads, clean-up or school repair, says Mark A. Price, a labor economist at the Keystone Research Center, a think tank in Harrisburg, Pa.

Can we just admit that the people who want public works all the time are communists. Let’s not act like it’s anything else. There has already been so much wasted money on road projects. They are tearing up and rebuilding roads that don’t even need it. All this does is destroy the wealth of our country by taking money that would otherwise be going into wealth creation and putting it into things that do not increase our wealth. If we have a road before this begins and a road after this begins, but we spent billions, we are not wealthier. While proponents will claim it creates jobs that will lead to personal consumption, they are overlooking that it is taking that money from other consumers. It’s not even a wash, because the government project isn’t as efficient and productive. Government projects never create wealth, unless you are one of the cronies who gets the project and line your pockets with tax payer money.

Payroll Tax Holiday

Leading up to the first stimulus package, small-business advocacy organizations such as the National Federation for Independent Business supported a six-month payroll tax holiday.

I’m all for tax cuts, but I’m getting tired of tax cuts without spending cuts. Also, are you going to hire people for a six-month payroll tax holiday? If you do, there is a chance again, as stated above, that you are going to have to lay the new hires off shortly in the future, leading to increased unemployment insurance. Also, if I’m a small business, I’m going to take savings on payroll taxes to increase my profits. If my clients aren’t demanding more of my goods or services, I’m not going to hire more employees. Also, what is a payroll tax holiday going to do when you have this health care monstrosity hanging over your head?

Capitalizing Community Banks

President Obama has already dispatched calls for giving small companies looking to expand — and, thus, create jobs — greater access to capital by way of community banks. Making it easier for community banks with less than $1 billion in assets to access funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, would give small businesses a greater chance of landing loans, says Obama.

via Small Business: The White House Works It –

TARP should be called To Anyone Requesting Program. It was passed against the will of the public for a specific purpose, and then the government decided on its own that it will do whatever it pleases with it. One of the best things they could do is announce the end of TARP. That would signal that they believe the crisis is coming to an end. Of course they won’t because they love the power that they can exercise with all the TARP money. Look at the power they have exercised over banks, automotive, etc. Last thing I would want is my community bank being at the end of the government’s leash. We’ve already seen how they change the terms of the agreement after the fact.

While all of these would probably produce some jobs, they ignore the negative consequences of each one. They ignore the jobs that will be harmed now and in the long term. They also ignore the economic consequences for the future with more government debt. Worst of all they presume that the government can fix the economy, create wealth, and is needed for economic growth. This is disasterous for the long term psyche of our country. Ronald Reagan had it right when he said, “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” Apparently, this has been forgotten.

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Inflation Concerns And Bursting Bubbles

Posted by Jason | Posted in Economics | Posted on 03-12-2009


It looks like some of the Fed’s insiders aren’t joining Bernanke’s suicide pack.

Yesterday it was Philly Fed’s Plossner, today it is Richmond Fed’s Jeff Lacker who joins the chorus demanding an end to Bernanke’s insane monetary policy of drowning the market with unprecedented liquidity which is not getting to consumers but merely propping Amazon stock at a bubblelicious 100x P/E.

In a speech before the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, Lacker stated: “The perception of inflation risk could be particularly pertinent to the current recovery, given the massive and unprecedented expansion in bank reserves that has occurred, and the widespread market commentary expressing uncertainty over whether the Federal Reserve is willing and able to promptly reverse that expansion… If we hope to keep inflation in check, we cannot be paralyzed by patches of lingering weakness, which could persist well into the recovery. In assessing when we will need to begin taking monetary stimulus out, I will be looking for the time at which economic growth is strong enough and well-enough established, even if it is not yet especially vigorous. Although it is hard to predict when that will occur, I can confidently predict that monetary policy will remain particularly challenging for some time to come.” Then again, the stock market does not seem to share Mr. Lacker’s concerns.

via Uh-Oh: One By One, The Fed’s Inflation Hawks Are Speaking Up.

Remember what I said about the S&P? When the Fed prints money, it flows somewhere. We may not have seen inflation yet, but that could be because regular consumers haven’t seen the money yet. On the other hand, it sure seems like there is inflation in stock and gold prices.

Typically, the money flows into some investment vehicle, most recently real estate and tech stocks before that, and then it all comes crashing down. I sold my S&P holdings (not that I owned much), and I’ve held off on the gold surge. I have a feeling both are going to come crashing down as the  next bubble bursts. Then again, what the hell do I know.  I’m just an IT guy, who loves the free market.

FYI, here’s a chart going back to the civil war for gold prices from Again, I think there is a bubble about to burst.

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FHA Looking To Increase Requirements For Insured Loans

Posted by Jason | Posted in Government | Posted on 02-12-2009


While I don’t think tax payers should be subsidizing other people’s home purchases, this is what happens when the government’s games catch up with them. They are trying to prop up the housing market from the mess they created, but at the same time they are looking at contradictory policies that will harm the housing market.

Shaun Donovan, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, plans to ask Congress on Wednesday to raise the cap on the annual insurance premium that the FHA can charge borrowers. In testimony before a congressional panel, he will also outline steps the agency is considering to set minimum credit scores, to require home buyers to put more money down, and to make lenders more accountable for loans that the agency insures.

Those measures are designed to begin rebuilding the agency’s depleted capital reserves. An independent audit last month said that the estimated value of those reserves had dropped to $3.6 billion, or about 0.5% of the $685 billion in loans the FHA has insured.

But any sharp crackdown could limit the pool of potential home buyers. Many rely on FHA-backed home loans.

“We have to replenish the reserves and we have to be prepared for a market outcome that may not be as favorable” as one that was forecast by the auditor, said David Stevens, the FHA’s commissioner, in an interview Monday. The audit estimated that the agency wouldn’t need any funds from the U.S. Treasury next year.

Raising insurance premiums could help avert the need for a taxpayer bailout of the agency, but the move would raise borrowing costs for home buyers. The FHA charges an upfront insurance premium of 1.75% of the loan amount. Borrowers pay additional annual premiums of either 0.5% or 0.55%.

The FHA will also limit the amount of money that sellers can provide for closing costs on home sales to 3% of the home price, from the current level of 6%. The agency is also finalizing plans to set a minimum credit score for borrowers, possibly by requiring those making small down payments to have higher credit scores.

via FHA Considers Ways to Boost Its Reserves –

Many people are calling for a second decline in housing. It’s not hard to figure out why. FHA is looking to make it harder to get an FHA insured loan. Also, come April of next year, the tax rebate will expire and those who were going to buy will have already done so. There will be a decline at that point in buyers. The government should have just stayed out of the housing decline in the first place. The decline would have been quicker, and it would have stabilized leaving a bottom to build on. Instead, it is doing as it always does. It’s delaying the bottoming and leading to a new decline shortly in the future. So, it won’t prevent the eventual bottoming, and it leaves us with massive debt as a reminder of their failed policies.

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Is The Government Setting Up The Next Real Estate Crisis?

Posted by Jason | Posted in Economics, Government | Posted on 24-11-2009


Anyone who takes the time to analyze how the mortgage crisis started quickly realizes it was the result of the Fed printing money (the flood) and the congress passing affordable housing regulation to promote home ownership (steering the flood into real estate). What we ended up getting was an overvalued real estate market and a bubble that eventually popped and caused supposedly the worst crisis since the Great Depression. I would argue Obama is making this the worst crisis since the Great Depression, but none the less. So what does the government do? More of the same with their home buyer tax credits and cheap printed money from the Fed.

The problem is that the FHA insures mortgages of homes below certain price levels with such a low down payment that it can be funded solely by the refundable tax credit. And, as we’ve seen in the recent housing crisis, buyers with no skin in the game are more likely than others to default on their mortgages when the value of their home falls below their mortgage balance.

Here’s how the credit allows buyers to avoid putting their own money at risk. Suppose a couple making $60,000 annually buys a home worth $200,000. They can get an FHA-insured loan if they put down 3.5% of the purchase price, about $7,000. The couple will also need to come up with another $1,000 in closing costs, for a total of $8,000. The couple can either dip into savings or borrow that money from relatives or somewhere else on a temporary basis.

After closing, the couple can quickly obtain the $8,000 refundable tax credit to pay off their temporary loan (or replenish their savings). In effect, they will have bought a home without putting any of their own money at risk. Owners who don’t sink their own money into a house are much more likely to default on the mortgage.

The FHA already is facing a rising number of serious problems on its insured mortgages. Last week the agency reported that its cash reserves dropped to 0.53% of the $685 billion of total loans it insurers. This is well below the 2% federal law requires the FHA to have in reserves.

via Homebuyer Tax Credits Threaten the FHA –

I won’t even get into the moral issue of what the government is doing by tricking people into buying homes they otherwise would not and forcing others to give up their earnings at a point of a gun so they can give it to home buyers. If the government would stay out of real estate, it would stabilize itself, and people would know the real value of their properties. Instead they are doing more of the same and inflating the value of real estate, creating more demand than there otherwise would be, and ultimately setting up another bubble in real estate. More than likely it won’t be as big of a bubble compared to the one we are recovering from, but none the less, it’s a bubble. Those who are buying under these programs are going to be in for a shock when the programs go away and values eventually move towards their market value. Then again, the Fed printed so much money that inflation may just increase the value of the homes. The problem is the rest of the economy will suffer.

In a seperate article the Journal talks about the disaster the rest of the housing market is in, so I’m sure they’ll keep tinkering.

The proportion of U.S. homeowners who owe more on their mortgages than the properties are worth has swelled to about 23%, threatening prospects for a sustained housing recovery.

Nearly 10.7 million households had negative equity in their homes in the third quarter, according to First American CoreLogic, a real-estate information company based in Santa Ana, Calif.

These so-called underwater mortgages pose a roadblock to a housing recovery because the properties are more likely to fall into bank foreclosure and get dumped into an already saturated market.

via 1 in 4 Borrowers Under Water –

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Obama’s Malaise

Posted by Jason | Posted in Economics | Posted on 20-11-2009


In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal this morning, Republican reps Jeb Hensarling and Pau Ryan layout why economic expectations are so low.

Why all the pessimism? The source appears to be a growing fear that the federal government is retreating from the free-market economic principles of the last half-century, and in particular the strong growth policies that began under Ronald Reagan. A review of the economic policies instituted by President Barack Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress lends credibility to this concern.

Exhibit A is the economic stimulus package signed into law by President Barack Obama in February. Even among previous stimulus efforts, the 2009 stimulus stands out for its ineffective targeting and sheer size. With interest, it is $1.1 trillion, double the size of Roosevelt’s New Deal spending as a percentage of GDP.

Exhibit B is tax policy going forward. It is a near certainty that Democratic-controlled Congress will allow most of the tax cuts of 2001-2003 to expire on Dec. 31, 2010.

Exhibit C is the administration’s intervention in the GM and Chrysler reorganizations. Upsetting decades of accepted bankruptcy law, the administration leveraged TARP funds to place unsecured and lower priority creditors like the United Auto Workers union in front of secured and higher priority creditors.

Health care, the administration’s signature issue, is Exhibit D. Disregarding its impact on quality and access, its plan will surely cost well over $1 trillion over the next decade. The House-passed version includes an 8% “pay or play” payroll tax and a half-trillion dollar surtax on incomes over $500,000, much of which will strike small business. Both taxes will tend to depress investment and the creation of new jobs.

If one substitutes the Blue Chip Economic Forecast’s interest-rate forecast for that of the administration, deficits will increase by an additional $1.2 trillion over the administration’s projected deficits. If the next decade’s interest rates climb to match those of the 1980s, then the deficit would increase another $5.3 trillion. If higher interest rates then slow economic growth, the impact on the deficit would be much worse.

via Jeb Hensarling and Paul Ryan: Why No One Expects a Strong Recovery –

While I agree with all these, I think the reps believes that government is the solution, and the problem is their solution is not being implemented. This is what happens when you believe the government is the solution to our problems. Whoever lies the best and gets control of the government sets the policies. I’d love to see these guys calling for the government to quit tinkering with the economy.

The free market works, and will handle slow downs much better than politics. This recession would have hit us fast and moved on already without the tinkering. Can you imagine a doctor giving you a shot and saying I don’t want to inflict the pain, so let me put the needle in slowly? When you get a shot, you want it fast and quick. You know it’s going to hurt. Just get it over with. The economy is the same way. If we are going to go through some economic pain, take the brunt of it and get it over with. Instead we have these idiots trying to avoid any pain, and all they do is prolong it. The Fed caused the damn pain, and then says their role is minimize the pain and prevent it going forward. Really? Good job jackasses. Maybe we should try to control the weather so we don’t have any natural disasters.

If you want expectations to pick up, go back to the constitution. Quit tinkering. Tinkering only causes people to speculate on what the tinkering will be, and because our current tinkerers are bigger socialists than the previous tinkerers, they don’t feel good about the tinkering. Remove the tinkering ,and you remove the speculation and the negative expectations.

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Fear of Double Dip in Housing –

Posted by Jason | Posted in Government | Posted on 19-11-2009


In case you missed it, yesterday, housing starts fell by 10.6%. Of course all the articles about it had some excuse, and how government was addressing it.

The U.S. housing market is sputtering again, adding to doubts about the vigor of the economic recovery.

Just a few months after housing showed signs of leveling off, bad weather and uncertainty over the extension of a home-buyer tax credit sent new-home starts in October tumbling 10.6% from the previous month. They fell to the lowest level since April, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. Starts of single-family houses fell 6.8%.

Earlier this month, Congress expanded the tax credit and extended it through April, so building should improve. Still, the latest data portend poorly for the economy overall, and for fourth-quarter …

via Fear of Double Dip in Housing –

Is this idiotic or what? We created a bubble by pushing so called affordable housing with government policies and “free money” via the Fed. “Everyone should be a homeowner” was the slogan of the day. So, as the bubble is deflating, instead of letting it deflate naturally so we can quickly get past it, we are prolonging it. We don’t want the quick fast pain of a bursting bubble, so we spend money, which only prolongs and delays the bursting and leaves us further in debt as a nation.

The government is creating speculation by people making their decisions based on if and when the government is going to extent a tax credit. This is why you have speculators. The government is giving them something to speculate about. This blurb even says that now that the tax credit passed, building should improve. OK, so what happens when it expires? Do people stop building? Do we pass another tax credit? We just keep going further in debt as a country trying to minimize the pain of our past mistakes all the while making new mistakes.

Think about this on a personal level. While tax credits and policy seems very impersonal, what is taking place is government is taking by force our money in order to give it to people they want buying a home. Is this moral? Why shouldn’t you be able to keep your own money and decide what you want to do with it. Maybe you’d decide to buy a home if you had more money.

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Meet the new slum lord – Fannie Mae

Posted by Jason | Posted in Economics, Government | Posted on 07-11-2009


Fannie Mae announced a new “deed for lease” program, where they will take your deed and rent your house back to  you if you don’t qualify for a loan modification and can prove you can’t pay your mortgage. They will sign a one year lease with the current owners. They are hoping they can then sell off the houses a year from now, when they assume the housing market will be better and the value of the homes will be higher. This is some pretty optimistic thinking from a now government owned institution.

What would make them think the housing market is going to pick up that much over the next year. So far, unemployment continues to rise. The Fed has been busy at the printing press, and the government is taking debt levels into unknown waters. More than likely if the economy begins to pick backup, we are going to have massive inflation. That will lead to two scenarios. Either we’ll have hyperinflation that makes the 70s look like child’s play, or we’ll have a Fed induced recession to bring inflation under control. Neither scenario paints a pretty picture for a booming housing market.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (Freddie is already doing something similar) are only delaying the inevitable. The market is much smarter than the government is. It will take into account that these government institutions have a ton of inventory being hidden from the market, what analyst call “shadow” inventory. If the housing market begins to pick up, it will be driven back down with this excess inventory. Instead, Fannie should take the short term pain and end it quick.

Because of Fannie’s mistakes it is asking the government (me and you) for another $15 billion after a quarterly loss of $18.9 billion. In total, it’s estimated that we will have wasted $200 billion on both Fannie and Freddie by the time this mess is over. Then again, we know how reliable government estimates are. So far we have handed over $61 billion to Fannie, and estimates are that Fannie is sitting on inventory around 65,000 homes.

Instead of becoming landlords, why doesn’t Fannie and Freddie sell of packages of houses as investment bundles. This would get the houses off their books, and it would bring them back into the free market where they can begin to stabilize the market. Investors will buy theses homes, and guess what they’ll have to do? They have to pay taxes on their profits, which ultimately will help with the government losses that will occur with the sale. With the investors holding properties, they will want to drive prices up. They’ll either rent them out, which investors are better at than the government, or they will fix up the homes and put them back on the market. Investors will not shoot themselves in the foot by flooding the market. They will slowly bring the houses onto the market to maximize sale prices and make the most profit. Whether renting or selling, the investor will be paying taxes on his capital gains.

The government should just take the short term pain of selling them off now? This may hurt the housing market, but it will be over and stabilization can begin. Instead, the government is prolonging this crisis and making it worse, and who’s going to eat this mess? We are.

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