The Motley Fool Discussion Boards
Retirement Discussions / Retired Fools
|Subject: Re: Is your 401(k) Inadequate For Retirement||Date: 8/3/2008 11:29 PM|
|Author: putnid||Number: 13797 of 19218|
Save us the rhetoric. The government made a very *significant* contribution to the problem:
From your post and link:
The crisis has its roots in the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, a Carter-era law that purported to prevent "redlining" - denying mortgages to black borrowers - by pressuring banks to make home loans in "low- and moderate-income neighborhoods." Under the act, banks were to be graded on their attentiveness to the "credit needs" of "predominantly minority neighborhoods." The higher a bank's rating, the more likely that regulators would say yes when the bank sought to open a new branch or undertake a merger or acquisition.
But to earn high ratings, banks were forced to make increasingly risky loans to borrowers who wouldn't qualify for a mortgage under normal standards of creditworthiness. The Community Reinvestment Act, made even more stringent during the Clinton administration, trapped lenders in a Catch-22.
"If they comply," wrote Loyola College economist Thomas DiLorenzo, "they know they will have to suffer from more loan defaults. If they don't comply, they face financial penalties . . . which can cost a large corporation like Bank of America billions of dollars."
Banks nationwide thus ended up making more and more subprime loans and agreeing to dangerously lax underwriting standards - no down payment, no verification of income, interest-only payment plans, weak credit history. If they tried to compensate for the higher risks they were taking by charging higher interest rates, they were accused of unfairly steering borrowers into "predatory" loans they couldn't afford.
Trapped in a no-win situation entirely of the government's making, lenders could only hope that home prices would continue to rise, staving off the inevitable collapse. But once the housing bubble burst, there was no escape. Mortgage lenders have been bankrupted, thousands of subprime homeowners have been foreclosed on, and countless would-be borrowers can no longer get credit. The financial fallout has hurt investors around the world. And all of it thanks to the government, which was sure it understood the credit industry better than the free market did, and confidently created the conditions that made disaster unavoidable."
Well, I'll spare you the rhetoric. I'll simply present you with a few facts...and fill in a few details DiLorenzo...um..."forgot" to mention.
So the critics claim that government policy encouraged the development of the subprime debacle through legislation like the CRA, which in effect forces banks to lend to the same otherwise uncreditworthy consumers they are now being criticized for accepting. Defenders of CRA disagree, pointing out that half of all subprime loans were made by institutions that are not subject to CRA and another substantial share of subprime loans were made by subsidiaries of banks that do not fully come under CRA. They estimate that the substantial number of riskier loans banks were forced to accept by CRA were not enough to be a problem.
The idea started on the outer precincts of the right. Thomas DiLorenzo, an economist who calls Ron Paul "the Jefferson of our time," wrote in September that the housing crisis is "the direct result of thirty years of government policy that has forced banks to make bad loans to un-creditworthy borrowers." The policy DiLorenzo decries is the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act, which requires banks to lend throughout the communities they serve.
Most analysts see the sub-prime crisis as a market failure. Believing the bubble would never pop, lenders approved risky adjustable-rate mortgages, often without considering whether borrowers could afford them; families took on those loans; investors bought them in securitized form; and, all the while, regulators sat on their hands.
CRA was enacted in 1977. The sub-prime lending at the heart of the current crisis exploded a full quarter century later. In the mid-1990s, new CRA regulations and a wave of mergers led to a flurry of CRA activity, but, as noted by the New America Foundation's Ellen Seidman (and by Harvard's Joint Center), that activity "largely came to an end by 2001."
In late 2004, the Bush administration announced plans to sharply weaken CRA regulations, pulling small and mid-sized banks out from under the law's toughest standards. Yet sub-prime lending continued, and even intensified -- at the very time when activity under CRA had slowed and the law had weakened.
Second, it is hard to blame CRA for the mortgage meltdown when CRA doesn't even apply to most of the loans that are behind it. As the University of Michigan's Michael Barr points out, half of sub-prime loans came from those mortgage companies beyond the reach of CRA. A further 25 to 30 percent came from bank subsidiaries and affiliates, which come under CRA to varying degrees but not as fully as banks themselves. Perhaps one in four sub-prime loans were made by the institutions fully governed by CRA.
Most important, the lenders subject to CRA have engaged in less, not more, of the most dangerous lending. Janet Yellen, president of the San Francisco Federal Reserve, offers the killer statistic: Independent mortgage companies, which are not covered by CRA, made high-priced loans at more than twice the rate of the banks and thrifts. With this in mind, Yellen specifically rejects the "tendency to conflate the current problems in the sub-prime market with CRA-motivated lending.
It's telling that, amid all the recent recriminations, even lenders have not fingered CRA. That's because CRA didn't bring about the reckless lending at the heart of the crisis. Just as sub-prime lending was exploding, CRA was losing force and relevance. And the worst offenders, the independent mortgage companies, were never subject to CRA -- or any federal regulator. Law didn't make them lend. The profit motive did.
Ah, yes. The truth is out there. One has to merely look for facts...not idealogical rhetoric.
|Copyright 1996-2014 trademark and the "Fool" logo is a trademark of The Motley Fool, Inc. Contact Us|