Solving the Mortgage Crisis - Part I

I don't know about you all, but I was reading Ben Jones' Housing Bubble Blog 3 years ago when house prices were still climbing 20% a year and housing bulls were laughing at the bubbleheads. To them, the naysayers obviously missed the boat and were just sore losers who rented.

Way back in 2005 there were plenty of people (Federal reserve economists excepted of course) who saw the bubble and predicted that when the adjustable rate mortgage resets came due (beginning en masse in 2007) there was going to be one heckuva housing bust, and a cacophony of calls for a bailout of the greedy and the stupid.

Now that those predictions have come to pass, the question is, should we just let the mortgage/housing debacle play out, or are there ways to intervene that would be socially beneficial?

We ought to at least be able to narrow down the options, filtering out those that mainly bail out the greedy, or else entail too much cost or moral hazard. Of those options that remain, we ought to at least be able to narrow down areas of disagreement. Below are my suggestions.

Tuesday proving Larry Kudlow and other Ayn Rand droogies wrong

For anyone whose read my pieces in the past, knows that I hold a certain disdain towards former Reagan White House OMB Associate Director/conservative-libertarian Ayn Rand acolyte Larry Kudlow. It's nothing personal against the guy, it's his ideas and economic policy objectives that I find fault with. For the past couple of months, he's been going on about this is the "Goldilocks economy." Essentially, that we're worrying about nothing because one bad economic indicator is being offset by a good one (mind you, he's often just used productivity as that one). Well today, despite his claims that all is almost well, we got some news that just proves Larry Kudlow wrong!

Ok, I will give him some credit. He isn't a Pollyanna and he has come out and said this or that has been bad or needs to get better. Still, his overall anthem is that things are really great and that we (he's quoted Phil Graham) should stop "whining."

Inflation is still there and going higher.

The Blogosphere Banking Panic (I.)

There have been recent blog posts which imply a panic in the banking sector worse than the Great Depression, with highly respected financial writer Mish a/k/a Mike Shedlock making the extraordinary claim that "The entire US banking system is insolvent." His essential reasoning:

There is roughly $6.84 Trillion in bank deposits. $2.60 Trillion of that is uninsured. There is only $53 billion in FDIC insurance to cover $6.84 Trillion in bank deposits. Of the $6.84 Trillion in bank deposits, the total cash on hand at banks is a mere $273.7 Billion. Where is the rest of the loot? The answer is in off balance sheet SIVs, imploding commercial real estate deals, Alt-A liar loans, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bonds, toggle bonds where debt is amazingly paid back with more debt, and all sorts of other silly (and arguably fraudulent) financial wizardry schemes that have bank and brokerage firms leveraged at 30-1 or more. Those loans cannot be paid back.

What cannot be paid back will be defaulted on.

Is he right?

Treasury Trouble: Is the government giving bad TIPS?

A little story passed by the radar of most folks this past week. A piece of news that really shows the US reaching a watershed moment. What is this oh so awesome thing? Well it isn't awesome, in fact, it isn't good at all. Investors are starting to reject government securities.

Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS) has been a staple investment for a long time, finding a home in portfolios big and small. So what are TIPS, and why should I care?

So what's the deal on TIPS?