Thursday, October 02, 2008

Dick Armey: Still a Wingnut, Blaming GSE's*

*GSE's: Government Sponsored Enterprise, specifically in this instance Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) and Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac).

On CNBC today I was treated to yet another facet of the decrepit ignorance of our populace and our (previously) elected officials.  I used to get emails from such morons, but since I began answering them back instead of deleting them, the number of emails has thankfully fallen off.

So this morning's Squawk Box show featuring the ignoble Mr. Armey (at right) gave me a glance into what I've been missing.  Apparently, deregulation dummies have been circulating an email containing a 1999 New York Times article about the the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act and drawing some conclusion that this somehow has led to the current mortgage crisis.  Idiots.

Fortunately, the venerable Barry Ritholtz has done the heavy lifting and referenced the complete lunacy of such an argument.  Read it in full, but here are the salient points:

Let's clarify the causes of current circumstances. Ask yourself the following questions about the impact of the Community Reinvestment Act and/or the role of Fannie & Freddie:

• Did the 1977 legislation, or any other legislation since, require banks to not verify income or payment history of mortgage applicants?

• 50% of subprime loans were made by mortgage service companies not subject comprehensive federal supervision; another 30% were made by banks or thrifts which are not subject to routine supervision or examinations. How was this caused by either CRA or GSEs ?

• What about "No Money Down" Mortgages (0% down payments) ? Were they required by the CRA? Fannie? Freddie?

• Explain the shift in Loan to value from 80% to 120%: What was it in the Act that changed this traditional lending requirement?

• Did any Federal legislation require real estate agents and mortgage writers to use the same 
corrupt appraisers again and again? How did they manage to always come in at exactly the purchase price, no matter what?

• Did the CRA require banks to develop automated underwriting (AU) systems that emphasized speed rather than accuracy in order to process the greatest number of mortgage apps as quickly as possible?

• How exactly did legislation force Moody's, S&Ps and Fitch to rate junk paper as Triple AAA?

• What about piggy back loans? Were banks required by Congress to lend the first mortgage and do a HELOC for the down payment -- at the same time?

• Internal bank memos showed employees how to cheat the system to get poor mortgages prospects approved that shouldn't have been: Titled How to Get an "Iffy" loan approved at JPM Chase. (Was circulating that memo also a FNM/FRE/CRA requirement?)


• The four biggest problem areas forhousing (by price decreases) are: Phoenix, Arizona; Las Vegas, Nevada; Miami, Florida, and San Diego, California. Explain exactly how these affluent, non-minority regions were impacted by the Community Reinvesment Act ?

• Did the GSEs require banks to not check credit scores? Assets? Income?

• What was it about the CRA or GSEs that mandated fund managers load up on an investment product that was hard to value, thinly traded, and poorly understood

• What was it in the Act that forced banks to make "interest only" loans? Were "Neg Am loans" also part of the legislative requirements also?

• Consider this February 2003 speech by Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozlilo at the American Bankers National Real Estate Conference. He advocated zero down payment mortgages -- was that a CRA requirement too, or just a grab for more market share, and bad banking?   

The answer to all of the above questions is no, none, and nothing at all.


The CRA is not remotely one of the proximate causes of the current credit crunch, Housing collapse,and mortgage debacle. As I detailed in Barron's, there is plenty of things to be angry at D.C. about -- but this ain't one of them.

1 comment:

Eric said...

the "freemaketeers" are paniced, they have realized that it's the old game, where deregulation and the greed thereof is going to result in the oposite of what they want... they think they can pull the old switcheroooooooo