Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

New housing bubble: Obama proposes lowering mortgage-lending requirements

I must have blogged a million times about how the Democrats caused the recession by forcing banks to make bad loans to people who couldn’t pay them back. Although the Republicans got blamed for the crisis, they were the ones who tried to regulate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but they were shut down by Democrats. Well, guess what? The Democrats didn’t learn their lesson the first time, and they want to start another housing bubble, just like the first one that gave us the recession.

Take a look at this article in the leftist Washington Post. (H/T ECM)

Excerpt:

The Obama administration is engaged in a broad push to make more home loans available to people with weaker credit, an effort that officials say will help power the economic recovery but that skeptics say could open the door to the risky lending that caused the housing crash in the first place.

[...][A]dministration officials say they are working to get banks to lend to a wider range of borrowers by taking advantage of taxpayer-backed programs — including those offered by the Federal Housing Administration — that insure home loans against default.

Housing officials are urging the Justice Department to provide assurances to banks, which have become increasingly cautious, that they will not face legal or financial recriminations if they make loans to riskier borrowers who meet government standards but later default.

Officials are also encouraging lenders to use more subjective judgment in determining whether to offer a loan and are seeking to make it easier for people who owe more than their properties are worth to refinance at today’s low interest rates, among other steps.

Obama pledged in his State of the Union address to do more to make sure more Americans can enjoy the benefits of the housing recovery, but critics say encouraging banks to lend as broadly as the administration hopes will sow the seeds of another housing disaster and endanger taxpayer dollars.

“If that were to come to pass, that would open the floodgates to highly excessive risk and would send us right back on the same path we were just trying to recover from,” said Ed Pinto, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and former top executive at mortgage giant Fannie Mae.

And if that was not enough,the Democrats also have another bubble being inflated. They nationalized the student loan industry, and now taxpayers are going to have to bail out those risky unpaid student loans as well.

Excerpt:

America’s now-nationalized student loan industry just reached a value of $1 trillion, according to Citigroup, growing at a 20 percent-per-year pace. Since President Obama nationalized the industry (a tacked-on provision of the Obamacare bill), tuition has gone up 25 percent and the three-year default rate is at a record 13.4 percent.

[...]With many young people unable to pay their loans (average graduating debt is about $29,000), Citigroup and others are speculating that this industry might be ripe for a bailout.

To pay off all the current defaults, Citigroup says it would cost taxpayers $74 billion. However, this number doesn’t include those who will default in the coming years, and, when the government rewards the defaulters, it will encourage more borrowers not to pay their debts.

And liberals in Congress have proposed forgiving all student loans via “The Student Loan Forgiveness Act 2012,” costing taxpayers $1 trillion.

Adding another $1 trillion dollars to the national debt isn’t exactly “forgiveness” for young people—it’s prolonging the payoff. In fact, student loan bailouts are a catch-22 for young people because they’re going to be held accountable for paying off the national debt and interest payments.

At least the young people who voted for Obama are going to be the ones to get the bill for his socialist economic policies.

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Egan Jones cuts U.S. credit rating again, this time from AA to AA-

Story from CNBC.

Excerpt:

Ratings firm Egan-Jones cut its credit rating on the U.S. government to “AA-” from “AA,” citing its opinion that quantitative easing from the Federal Reserve would hurt the U.S. economy and the country’s credit quality.

The Fed on Thursday said it would pump $40 billion into the U.S. economy each month until it saw a sustained upturn in the weak jobs market.

In its downgrade, the firm said that issuing more currency and depressing interest rates through purchasing mortgage-backed securities does little to raise the U.S.’s real gross domestic product, but reduces the value of the dollar.

In turn, this increases the cost of commodities, which will pressure the profitability of businesses and increase the costs of consumers thereby reducing consumer purchasing power, the firm said.

In April, Egan-Jones cuts the U.S. credit rating to “AA” from “AA+” with a negative watch, citing a lack of progress in cutting the mounting federal debt.

Moody’s Investors Service currently rates the United States Aaa, Fitch rates the country AAA, and Standard & Poor’s rates the country AA-plus. All three of those ratings have a negative outlook.

Could this have anything to do with the decision to print $40 billion a month to “stimulate” the economy? Once you’ve given up on letting businesses create jobs by lowering their taxes and removing burdensome regulations, then printing money is all you have left. But no one mistakes that for economic growth, least of all credit rating agencies.

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Europe is going socialist – what’s the worst that could happen?

European Debt to GDP and Credit Rating

European Debt to GDP and Credit Rating

From MSN Money.

Excerpt:

European finance officials have discussed as a worst-case scenario limiting the size of withdrawals from ATM machines, imposing border checks and introducing capital controls in at least Greece should Athens decide to leave the euro.

EU officials have told Reuters the ideas are part of a range of contingency plans. They emphasized that the discussions were merely about being prepared for any eventuality rather than planning for something they expect to happen – no one Reuters has spoken to expects Greece to leave the single currency area.

[...]The discussions have taken place in conference calls over the past six weeks, as concerns have grown that a radical-left coalition, SYRIZA, may win the second election, increasing the risk that Greece could renege on its EU/IMF bailout and therefore move closer to abandoning the currency.

No decisions have been taken on the calls, but members of the Eurogroup Working Group, which consists of euro zone deputy finance ministers and heads of treasury departments, have discussed the options in some detail, the sources said.

As well as limiting cash withdrawals and imposing capital controls, they have discussed the possibility of suspending the Schengen agreement, which allows for visa-free travel among 26 countries, including most of the European Union.

[...]Another source confirmed the discussions, including that the suspension of Schengen was among the options raised.

“These are not political discussions, these are discussions among finance experts who need to be prepared for any eventuality,” the second source said. “It is sensible planning, that is all, planning for the worst-case scenario.”

I noticed an article that came out in CNN Money that explained how American households had lost almost 40% of their net worth since 2007 – the exact year that Nancy Pelosi took control of the House and Harry Reid took control of the Senate. The Democrats have been running the European playbook since they took over in 2007. We are just a few steps behind the Europeans thanks to the borrow and spend policies of the Democrats.

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New jobs report: unemployment rises and 70% chance of recession

James Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute explains:

The May jobs report was a complete and utter disaster for the economy and, perhaps, President Obama’s chances for reelection.

Employers created just 69,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department said on Friday. That’s the fewest since May of last year. Economists had been expecting nonfarm payrolls to increase by 150,000. (In fact, the result was lower than what any economist polled by Reuters had predicted.)

Moreover, companies added 49,000 fewer jobs than previously estimated in March and April. Talk about a slowdown. The average monthly gain was 226,000 in first quarter vs. an average of just 73,000 in April and May.

Oh, and the U-3 unemployment rate rose to 8.2% from 8.1%. The broader U-6 gauge, which also measures underemployment, rose to 14.8% from 14.5%. The labor force participation rate did, finally, tick up to a still-low 63.8%, lending credence to the idea that the shrinking workforce reflects discouraged workers and not just demographics.

And here’s the forecast: WE’RE DOOMED.

So what is the true state of the labor market?

– If the size of the U.S. labor force as a share of the total population was the same as it was when Barack Obama took office—65.7% then vs. 63.8% today—the U-3 unemployment rate would be 10.9%. (Now, this doesn’t take into account the aging of the Baby Boomers, which should lower the participation rate due to rising retirements. But is that still a valid assumption given the drop in wealth since 2006?)

–  If you take into account the aging of the Baby Boomers, the participation rate should be trending lower. Indeed, it has been doing just that since 2000. Before the Great Recession, the Congressional Budget Office predicted what the participation rate would be in 2012, assuming such demographic changes. Using that number, the real unemployment rate would be 10.5%.

– Of course, the participation rate usually falls during recessions. Yet even if you discount for that and the aging issue, the real unemployment rate would be 9.5%.

– We continue to be stuck in the longest period of 8% unemployment or higher since the Great Depression, 40 consecutive months.

– And, as the above chart shows — originally from Obama economists Christina Romer and Jared Bernstein in January 2009 –the current 8.2% unemployment rate is 2.5 percentage points above where Team Obama predicted it would be right now if Congress passed his trillion-dollar stimulus plan.

–  The median duration of unemployment rebounded to 20.1 weeks in May, and 42.8% were unemployed for longer than a half year.

– Total hours worked fell 0.2% on weakness in the work week.

– Average hourly earnings rose just 0.1%. Coupled with a very stable overall inflation rate, real wages were likely flat in May.

The big question now: Does this report suggest the U.S economy is heading into recession, especially given the sharp slowdown in global economic activity from Europe to India to, perhaps most worrisome, China?

Consider this: Last year, the U.S. grew at just a 1.7% pace. Research from the Federal Reserve finds that that since 1947 when year-over-year real GDP growth falls below 2 percent, recession follows within a year 70 percent of the time. We are firmly within the Recession Red Zone.

Facebook friend WGB pointed me to this story in CNS News:

The number of American women who are unemployed was 766,000 individuals greater in May 2012 than in January 2009, when President Barack Obama took office, according to data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In January 2009, there were approximately 5,005,000 unemployed women in the United States,according to BLS. In May 2012, there were 5,771,000.

[...]The number of women employed in the United States peaked at 68,102,000 in April 2008, according to BLS.  The number of women employed in the United States today is 1,216,000 less than that.

Remember, the Democrats got control of Congress in January 2007, and had control of spending in the 2008 fiscal year. My take is that the hiring is still going on in places like Canada and Chile and Sweden, where government isn’t taxing and regulating job creators into oblivion. Companies are still hiring and expanding and drilling for oil – just not here.

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Greeks withdraw $894 million from Greek banks in one day

I found this article from MSNBC on The Other McCain.

Excerpt:

Political leaders in Athens were due to discuss an emergency government Wednesday to deal with a possible run on banks as it emerged Greeks withdrew almost $900 million in a single day, fearing their country could crash out of the euro currency by the end of the week.

An interim government would take the country through to new elections on June 17, triggered by the collapse on Tuesday of talks to form a coalition between winners of the inconclusive May 6 election.

Greeks are withdrawing euros from banks, apparently afraid of the prospect of rapid devaluation if the country leaves the European single currency and returns to the drachma.

President Karolos Papoulias warned of “great fear that could develop into a panic,” the minutes of Papoulias’ negotiations with political leaders showed, according to Reuters.

[...]Several banking sources told Reuters similar amounts had also been withdrawn on Tuesday. Nevertheless, there was no sign of panic or queues at bank branches in Athens on Wednesday. Bankers dismissed suggestions that a bank run was looming. A senior executive at a large Greek bank told Reuters: “There is no bank run, no queues or panic. The situation is better than I expected. The amount of deposit withdrawals the president mentioned referred to three days, not one.”

[...]Greeks have already been withdrawing their savings from banks at a sharp clip – nearly a third of bank deposits were withdrawn between January 2010 and March 2012, reducing total Greek household and business deposits to 165 billion euros.

What I find really striking about stories like this is that Greece just had an election. 75% of them want to stay in the European Union and keep the Euro as a currency. But that can only happen if they accept that they are spending too much and they are not producing anything. They have to cut spending, lower taxes and deregulate so that there is economic growth. So what did they do? They voted against austerity. They think that by refusing to meet the conditions of the people who can bail them out, that they will get a bailout. It’s just insane. Like whipping a thirsty camel with the expectation that whipping can somehow satiate its thirst and cause it to get up and keep moving.

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