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Nov 16, 2002
Who, Me? Yes You!

When, during the invasion of Iraq, the United States Government issued its famous deck of playing cards with the 52 arch villains of the Iraqi police state, Saddam Hussein’s face adorned the Ace of Spades. If the Obama Administration wanted to engage in a similar public relations campaign for the real estate crisis, the top card should be reserved for Alan Greenspan.

Yet in a speech this Tuesday before the National Association of Realtors, Sir Alan “the-bubble-blower” claimed that his low interest rate policies in the early and middle years of this decade had no effect on mortgage rates or real estate prices. As a result, he claims no responsibility for the subprime mortgage crisis. But even current Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who shared interest rate policy responsibility as governor of the New York Fed during the Greenspan regime, recently admitted that overly accommodative policy helped inflate the bubble. So what does Greenspan know that everyone else doesn’t?

His primary defense is that mortgage rates were a function of long-term interest rates which were simply not responding to the movement in short term rates, which he did control. While it is true that the flow of capital from foreign creditors with excess dollars did keep long rates low despite rising short rates, this “conundrum” was not the leading factor in the housing bubble. Although rates on thirty-year fixed rate mortgages are based on long-term bonds, by 2005 such loans had become an endangered species. The housing bubble was all about adjustable-rate mortgages with 1-7 year teaser rates primarily based on the Fed funds rate.

The rock bottom teaser rates, permitted by the 1% Fed funds rate, were the primary reason that many home buyers were able to qualify for mortgages they couldn’t otherwise afford, and in turn, to bid up home prices to bubble levels. By pushing down the cost of short-term money, the Fed enabled homebuyers to make big bets on rising real estate prices. Without the Fed’s help, few borrowers would have “qualified” for these risky mortgages and real estate prices never would have been bid up so high.

Greenspan expresses exasperation now, as he did then, that his careful nudging of interest rates higher by quarter point increments did not translate into corresponding increases in long-term rates. Unfortunately, according to Greenspan, the markets would not cooperate with his wise guidance, and to his dismay, mortgage rates fell despite his best efforts. As they say in Texas, this dog will just not hunt. If the “measured pace” of his quarter point hikes were too slow to produce the desired effect, why didn’t Greenspan jack up the pressure? With interest rates far below the official inflation rate for many years during the bubble, he certainly had plenty of room to maneuver. The claim that he was unhappy results of his rate hikes, despite his having done nothing to adjust that policy, is ridiculous.

In addition to his colossal errors on interest rate policy there were many other ways Greenspan blew air into the real estate bubble. One example was what the market called the “Greenspan put.” By creating the perception in word and deed (since proven accurate) that the Fed would backstop any major market or economic declines, lenders became more comfortable making risky loans. In an often quoted 2004 speech, Greenspan went so far as to actively encourage the use of adjustable-rate mortgages and praised home equity extractions for their role in contributing to economic growth. In fact, rather than criticizing homeowners for treating their houses like ATM machines, he often praised the innovative ways in which such homeowners were “managing” their personal balance sheets. Greenspan was as much a proponent of leverage for homeowners on Main Street as he was for bankers on Wall Street.

The bottom line is that Greenspan fathered the housing bubble and now he refuses to acknowledge kinship of his wayward child. His denial of responsibility is an act of stunning bravado, and is a testament to his ability to turn even the simplest of situations into an impenetrable tangle of theories and statistics. The private sector jokers who now hold top dishonors in our pack of economic villains are easily trumped by the Maestro. The fact that Greenspan still has any credibility shows just how little understanding the general public, including Wall Street and the media, actually have about this crisis.
The fact that Greenspan still has any credibility shows just how little understanding the general public, including Wall Street and the media, actually have about this crisis.

To include Bernanke.
The Greenspan performance was the result of policymakers gorging themselves at the financial system's contribution trough.
Originally Posted By: digitalSniperX1
Oversimplified and/or subtly politicized by truth omission and blame by proxy....stereotypical US press.

What is oversimplified?
It's a collection of factors that created the financial crisis. Not just simply Greenspan's lowering rates. When told 20% of mortgages were subprime...Greenspan replied with 'That can't be true'.

So how is it that Greenspan is responsible for a lowering in lending standards?

Hint: He wasn't.
Right. I agree with you. He was one factor, a very important one at that. The Fed & our government has played the biggest role in destroying our economy over the last 35 years or so. IMO. Right now, capitalism is getting all the blame.
Alan Greenspan is an apolitical type (my impression). He's more a pure economist (again my impression). Having said that he understands the complexities of risk and assumes those involved in the financial markets do the same. In other words he trusts responsible people, both those in political positions of power and those in industry, to be subject to and therefore be cognizant of the accompanying governing rules.

And that was his biggest mistake.

We have a government filled with people who'll without so much as batting an eye, sign trillion dollar stimulus bills. These same people more than likely wouldn't be able to answer simple things such as "How many zeroes are there in $1 trillion" or "what's the sum of 4/3 and 5/8 ?" Why do we have these people..simply because they are a mirror of those they represent.

And while they claim to be wholly in opposition to the Wall Street crowd, they receive their gifts and write their bills nonetheless. they are thick as thieves.
Yeah, I think so too.

Wouldn't having our currency backed by gold, and abolishing the Fed allow are better system to emerge?
I'm of two opinions in relation to this standard. First it's arbitrary but has the effect of valuing currency on a measurable standard dictated by supply and the forced discipline.

On the other hand it's archaic as real value or worth isn't found in a pot of gold. Valuing currency on the capacity to produce has its pluses. Its minuses are that we're being manipulated in a system built on that concept.

Make no mistake, being part of such a system places the national debt on the people. And in varying ways.

And I don't see a growth curve that'll allow such debts to be sustained. Unless we're talking an inflation curve.

Again, make no mistake. A country which devalues its currency to enhance its balance sheet has in theory defaulted on its debt.
Again, make no mistake. A country which devalues its currency to enhance its balance sheet has in theory defaulted on its debt.

China is buying all the gold it can get.
I dunno, but sounds like a reasonable hedge against dollar backed securities. Must not be exceedingly agressive (probably wouldn't be wise either) because gold isn't spiking. I'm sure they could unload dollars at a high enough rate to push the price up quickly.

I'm no economist though, so commenting on this makes me a bit uncomfortable. But seeing that there are so many factors influencing economics/economies/policies, I suppose opinions aren't so bad.
Please don't believe a politician's agenda mirrors that of the electorate. This situation is a fundamental flaw in our political system.
Let's make this simple. Far too many Americans can't multiply fractions and have difficulty reading a newspaper.

Yet somehow they have what it takes to make responsible voting decisions?

One very recent highly publicized house briefing should've left the majority of Americans alarmed. Yet it was a publicity stunt for their benefit. And apparently they bought it.

A person very close to me said to another very close to me "You'd be stupid to not vote for XXXXX, he's going to give you free stuff".

And they can read...not sure on the fractions though.
There's a difference between being plain stupid ..and being disingenuous. The latter depends on the former for success.
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