Wednesday, March 07, 2007



You remember that amazing-- no doubt, Jesus-ordained-- coincidence of gas prices falling dramatically just before the election last October? I wonder how many idiots fell for that. And what a tragedy if that saved the necks of a dozen nearly-failed Republicrooks like John Doolittle, Randy Kuhl, Robin Hayes, Mean Jean Schmidt, Chris Shayes, Jim Gerlach, Jim Walsh, Marilyn Musgrave, and Heather Wilson.

If you were as cynical as I was about that-- or even a quarter as cynical-- you won't be surprised to know that as soon as the election results started rolling in and the polls closed down the price of gasoline started climbing again. And it's just kept on climbing ever since-- the Bush's Regime's idea of a nice regressive, privatized tax. This past month alone, the price of gasoline has risen thirty-one cents.

Higher gas prices are bad enough; but for people who were counting on the equity in their homes to support them through retirement, the inevitable fall out from the Bush economy is far, far worse. Dean Baker of the Center for Economic Policy Research and author of The Conservative Nanny State: How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer, did a story for Truthout called The Housing Bubble Starts to Burst.
While the collapse of the housing bubble was both predictable and inevitable, it is not pretty. Tens of millions of people will be hurt as they see much of the equity in their homes - money that most had counted on to support their retirement - disappear. Millions more will be forced out of their homes as they find that they are unable to meet the payments on adjustable rate mortgages that reset at higher rates. People who had worked hard and saved in order to become homeowners will see their dream disappear.

The timing and process of the unwinding of the bubble cannot be known, but the basic story is clear. Investors are finally realizing that the high-risk mortgages they have been holding are high-risk.

Mortgage brokers, who make their money on issuing mortgages, not holding them, had been anxious to get as many people as possible to buy mortgages. While old-fashioned bankers would demand large down payments and good credit histories, many mortgage brokers were happy to issue mortgages that they knew buyers could not pay off. Since the brokers dump their mortgages in the secondary market almost immediately after they are issued, they have little reason to be concerned about whether the buyer can actually meet the payments.

Mortgage brokers were able to entice more people into the housing market with low "teaser rates" that were often several percentage points below the market rate to which the loan would eventually reset. Many homebuyers who could meet their monthly payment on a mortgage with a 1.5 percent interest rate would be hopelessly over their heads when the mortgage reset to a 6.5 percent rate.

But, everything was fine, as long as home prices continued their rapid appreciation. If a homebuyer's income wasn't high enough to make the mortgage payment, the homebuyer could draw on the new equity created by a rising home price. As a result, delinquency and foreclosure rates remained low through 2004 and 2005, even as the number of high-risk mortgages soared.

However, the party began to end last year as house prices started to fall. The fall thus far has been relatively modest (around 3 percent nationwide), but with prices going in the wrong direction, most new homebuyers have no equity that they could rely upon to meet their monthly payments. As a result, delinquency rates began to soar in 2006. More than 10 percent of the subprime adjustable rate mortgages issued last year (the most risky category) were already seriously delinquent or foreclosed within 10 months of issuance. This is even before any of these mortgages reset to a higher interest rate.

This was part of the little stock market correction that devastated the international markets last week. But if it makes you feel any better, not everyone is hurt in these financial mishaps. Oh, chances are you will be, but, as Baker points out "Those who mess up the economy do well, while their victims-- in this case millions of moderate-income homebuyers who will lose their homes-- pay the price for the experts' mistakes." And if that doesn't sum of the essence of Bush economics, I don't know what does.



At 10:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The enormous disaster that befell our country with the assassination of the Kennedys, and accelerated rapidly with that stupid criminal Reagan, has reached a clear tipping point with that even stupider and more criminal Bush.

We might be witnessing the beginning of the end of the United States as a great country. If the economy goes, everything else will follow it right down the toilet. It might already be too late to stop.


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