I may have lost faith in Wall St., but today I regained faith in Congress. The House shot down the $700 billion bail out… and I could not be happier. And you wanna know why… Ok, but first let me lay the groundwork just in case…
The gist of the bailout plan
HR 3997 would have allowed the Secretary of the Treasury to establish the Troubled Asset Relief Program. This program would have been allowed “to purchase and to make and fund commitments to purchase, troubled assets (shaky mortgages and mortgage-backed securities) from any financial institution.”
My president, our president decided that it would be a good idea to use $700 billion of our tax dollars to save the finance industry. He wanted to buy shaky mortgages and mortgaged-backed securities. We all know what a mortgage is, but…
What is a mortgaged-based security?
It is sort of like a bond… an IOU. Potential homeowners go to banks to apply for a home loan. The bank issues the mortgages. And then, the bank pools the loans into neat little packages and sell them on the market. The people who buy these neat little packages receive interest and principle payments every month whenever the homeowners pay their mortgage. In essence the investors are lending the money to homeowners and expected to receive payments every month. The bank’s role in this is as the middleman. For its services of connecting the buyer and lender, the bank receives a service commission.
Ok I got 10 friends who need a hundred dollars each. They all ask me if I can loan them the money. I shell out the $1,000 at 15% and get them to sign an IOU. Then I turn to my friend Joe Blow and I say look Joe, buy these IOUs from me for $1,000. And when my 10 friends pay the bill, I’ll send you all the principal ($1,000) and interest ($150). All I want is a small services fee of $2.
So I make $2 and Joe gets $148. However, Joe now assumes all the risk. If any of the friends don’t pay the bill, it is Joe who will be shafted, not me.
The problem with mortgage-backed securities
Generally, there is no problem. Most times mortgage-backed securities are a safe bet. Yeah, there is some risk involved, but usually not much. The way it works is that the IOU is secured by an asset… the house. The house is appraised by the bank, the applicant has adequate income to repay the loan, and the bank verified the homeowner’s financial credibility.
But… What happens if the house is over-valued, if the applicant overstates his ability to repay the loan, and if the banks did not adequately qualify the mortgages?
So here enters the problem…
Well what happens is… that those mortgage-backed securities are worthless and investors will lose a lot of money.
Lately, investors have been taking a lot of losses on these mortgage-backed loans because the mortgage pools are filled with subprime products, foreclosed properties, soon to be foreclosed properties… just a mess of worthless assets. (I’m not really sure if “assets” is the right word to use here because asset implies value.)
Who are these investors?
Mortgage-backed securities are big business. And because of the perceived low risk, many entities buy them…banks, hedge funds, pension funds, mutual funds.
Alright now back to why I am glad that this bailout was voted down.
The bailout would have rewarded corporations for bad behavior
The bailout would have alleviated the mortgage risk exposure of financial institutions (and only financial institutions). Aren’t these the people started this mess in the first place? Financial institutions were being careless and greedy. They knowingly exposed themselves to subprime lenders in order to increase short term profits. Not only did these financial institutions give money to those with questionable financial credibility, but they also engaged in other greedy and deceitful behaviors. They overvalued houses so that they can issue first and second mortgages. They came up with all these colorful ways to qualify borrowers… balloons, no interest mortgages, one year ARMs, etc. They made stupid choices in order to fatten their pockets, but it backfired.
I hate to get on the Harper story again, but just think about this… JP Morgan Chase loaned a family a half a million dollars. The borrowers… a house wife and a home security alarm installer (not wealthy people). The loan was secured with a house that cost almost a million dollars to build (the house was a free gift from Extreme Makeover: Home Edition). At one point the family was trying to sell the house for $950,000. It did not sell. Why… because regardless of how much the house cost to build… a house (or anything else for that matter) is only worth as much as someone is willing to pay for it.
The house is in Lake City, GA. The median income in Lake City $38,000, the median house value, $125,000… both less than the medians for the state of Georgia.
Now granted I don’t know much about the neighborhoods in Lakeland, GA… but the Harper’s old house was ummm… a dump (I’m not trying to be ugly, but it was). The dump was torn down and replace with a mansion. Great!
But if the Harper’s old house was a dump… then chances are that the houses around it are dumps too. What sane person with a million dollars or even a half a million dollars would buy a mansion that was surrounded by dumps? I know if I had that kind of money to spend on a house, I would not be looking to buy a mansion that sits in the middle of dumps. I would want a mansion that is surrounded by other mansions.
No matter now much it costs to build, nobody is going to buy that house for so much money. The house is not worth a half a million, it is only worth what someone is willing to pay.
Location, Location, Location – that is what the realtor says. I am no realtor and I understand that. So why would JP Morgan Chase value that house at a half a million dollars plus.
Anyway, the family could not repay the loan and it went into foreclosure. The house went up for auction. I am not sure what it sold for, or if it even sold at all… but either way, that was a horrible business decision on JP Morgan Chase‘s part.
Taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for the bad decisions of borrowers and lenders.
The federal government has never come to my rescue when I did something stupid. So why should they help stupid… (greedy) banks? And anyway a bailout out does not solve the problem. It is just a band aid. Bailing out banks just frees them to go out and make more bad decisions. So way to go House! I think you all really voted for the people on this one.
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