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Financial Crisis, yes, but of who’s making?
September 30, 2008
Financial Crisis, yes, but of who’s making?
American Free Market Capitalism may now be in crash and burn mode. Is it due to the inevitability proclaimed by Marxism, or due to (ho hum, heavy sigh and here we go again) government interference with the free market process?
Every time government steps in and interferes with the free market process, something bad happens. No exceptions.
At the absolute center of the current financial American financial institution mess are the twin government created monsters, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. This is where the whole problem originated, and the point from which it spread, like a giant infection, throughout the financial markets of the whole world, like a poison of the blood working its way toward the heart. Designed, as so many bad things are designed, with the best of intentions, these two centrally planned, government invented entities were planned, designed and intended to make it easier for people with limited economic potential to buy homes they would otherwise be denied in a free market, because they simply could not afford to buy them. It’s a common sense thing. If you have a small income, and/or a poor work record, and/or a poor credit record, a bank won’t give you the credit you need to buy an expensive house. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were supposed to fulfill the neo-Marxist egalitarian goal of equal opportunity in the marketplace for everyone, and put everyone in a house. The fact that some of them couldn’t afford to pay for the house was beside the point; the government central planners wanted everyone in a house.
Before we talk about the current government-induced financial crisis, perhaps a little history is in order. Let’s talk about The Great Depression, and then return to Fannie and Freddie.
The US Government’s Role in the Great Depression
In the West, during the period between the two Great Wars, the intellectual fad, the raging, popular topic of the cocktail set was, of course, the theories of Marx and hot Socialism, which continued to make inroads into intellectual thought, in Europe, England and America. By the time of the great depression, the stage had been set to begin the change from a “government of the people, by the people, for the people” (Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, 1863) to a new “government of the people, by the government, for the elite liberal intellectuals.” The great depression was universally blamed on the “failure” of free market Capitalism as an economic system, and provided “proof” of the need to replace it with a more Socialist, planned economic system. Of course, we know now that the great depression, which began in America,
It should be stated here that these facts, which are not in question today, were not available or known at the historical time of the depression. For instance, when John Maynard Keynes wrote his General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, he believed that Capitalism had failed. Ironically, the myth that private enterprise, which included private banking, had failed and caused the depression created the political environment favorable to causing the Fed, which itself had actually caused the national banking catastrophe, to gain greater control over the regional banks, to gain new and more prestigious offices and titles, and to grow (Ref. Free To Choose, Milton & Rose Friedman, page 89).
Be all that as it may, these events had a profound effect on the American public, whose perceptions changed dramatically regarding their view of private enterprise and the role of government in their lives. It became widely held that government had to play a more active role in stopping what was then seen as dangerously irresponsible and unregulated private enterprise.
Most Americans believe that the great depression started when the New York Stock Market crashed on Black Thursday, October 24, 1929; but, while it didn’t help matters, it certainly did not cause the great depression, nor did it signal the failure of Capitalism. The crash reflected growing economic problems, burst an unsustainable speculative bubble, and went far toward spreading uncertainty and pessimism, but, had it not been for direct government intervention, the crash itself would have been of little historical note.
But President Hoover was the first, unfortunately, of many American presidents to set his course unerringly toward the violation of all of the laissez-faire cannons (Ref. America's Great Depression, Murray Rothbard, page 168), which had saved the day for our economy in all depressions and panics previous to 1929. These included the first great depression of 1829, the panic of 1837, and the depression of 1920-1921, which was our last “natural” recovery to full employment. Any government spending, no matter what label may be attached to it, is solely consumptive, and any reduction in it will raise the economy’s investment to consumption ratio. Therefore, the only proper action of government during any recession is to cut the budget, and leave the economy strictly alone.
Hoover, however, launched a revolutionary program of government planning and intervention; he bolstered wages and prices, expanded credit, propped up weak businesses, and dramatically increased government spending with new government subsidies for unemployment and public works - all programs, by the way, which are usually thought of as “FDR New Deal” programs. Then, faced with the twin problems of an ever deepening depression and an ever growing $2 billion deficit, when he should have cut the budget, he raised taxes. The many new hobo-jungles and teeming shanty-towns of the day were aptly named “Hoovervilles.” When Mr. Roosevelt took office, after three and a half years of increasing depression, with 25% unemployment, huge bread lines and no relief in sight, he simply elaborated on Mr. Hoover’s policies and dramatically increased government spending, planning and intervention, to an unprecedented level. This marked the birth of American neosocialism.
This period was a pivotal point in the evolution of American liberalism and conservatism, after which conservatives could be described as the protectors of the rights of men and free markets, and liberals could be thought of as seekers of Socialist utopian idealism. W. F. Buckley Jr.:
“It was in the United States that conservatism crystallized with a meaning that pretty well overtook competing meanings. What caused this transformation was the heavy emphasis of libertarianism, instantly distinguishing conservatism from its association with nineteenth-century social and economic standpattism of the British. The conservatives in the United States began to rally during the New Deal years (1933-45). Their reaction was against the centralizing tendencies of what in America came to be known as “liberalism.” Up until about the time of the First World War, liberalism was generally used to designate the doctrine that expanded individual liberty; and liberty was generally understood to describe protections from the legendary oppressor of the individual. Thus Woodrow Wilson’s famous, “the history of liberty is a history of resistance. The history of liberty is a history of limitation of governmental power, not the increase of it.” The tendency of New Deal liberals was to think of problems in the macrocosmic mode, fit subjects for government reform. Thus, in comprehensive ways, “liberal” government undertook to mobilize the state to combat virtually all social problems including unemployment, agricultural distress, a shortage of electricity, and illiteracy.” (Ref. National Review, August 17, 1992; Toward a Definition of Conservatism, William F. Buckley Jr.; page 18)
The public was enthusiastic about Roosevelt’s New Deal, which was seen as a rationally planned and constructed economy and great social experiments; ideas that seemed fresh and workable and had not yet been soiled by experience. Roosevelt’s image was both charismatic and reassuring to the public; in his inaugural address, he told the people that they had nothing to fear but fear itself, blamed the depression on the “rulers of the exchange of mankind’s goods”, and stated that “The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization”; the majority of the populace latched onto his words, loved him and believed him.
For the most part, the outside world didn’t know about the horrors of Russian life. It is important to note that the most extreme kind of economic planning was being seriously advocated by the liberal intelligentsia in both England and America, and that the model of Russia was being held up for imitation by men who were soon to play important roles in public affaires. In 1934, the newly established National Planning Board devoted a great deal of attention to the examples of planning provided by these four countries: Germany, Italy, Russia, and Japan. Ten years later, of course, we referred to these four countries as “totalitarian”, we had fought a horrible war with three of them, and were soon to start a “cold war” of inestimable cost with the fourth. (Ref. The Road To Serfdom, F. A. Hayek; Forward, page vi)
Interestingly, British and American government economic and social planning along these lines not only continued, but increased, and is with us to this very day. Liberals later denied that Russia had anything to do with the inspiration for socializing economic planning in the West, and it became a fashionable argument among liberals to state, as loudly and emphatically as possible, that Germany, Italy, Russia and Japan had all “reached totalitarianism by very different roads”, and that economic planning was unrelated to the social and economic problems in Russia and other Socialist countries. You will notice, when liberals present these arguments that they tend to get just a little bit shrill. During this period, the hot Socialism of Marx continued to further infect liberal intellectual thought, and the balance of the limited power in America began a relentless and seemingly inexorable shift from the people, up the government hierarchy, toward the central government.
Henney Penney and “The sky is falling!” Vs. Economics 101
First, where did Fannie and Freddie come from?
Fannie Mae: Federal National Mortgage Association. Created by FDR in 1938.
During the Great Depression, after FDR declared a “bank holiday” allowing banks to close their doors and keep people’s money, great masses of people went into default on their home mortgages, and, of course, with no existing economic confidence, all credit died. Nobody was working. Roosevelt and Congress created Fannie Mae, with the purpose of using it to buy shaky home mortgages from lenders, thereby getting no-confidence or questionable loans off of the books of the lending institutions, and thus making them more financially sound, and thus making more credit available to the public through them. It also increased our debt, of course. Our government now held the “bad” debt. And the only source of government revenue is, of course, taxes.
It turned out to not be temporary or any sort of stop-gap effort. Fannie Mae purchases of no or low confidence mortgages continued and escalated, until Fannie Mae became the largest mortgage investment house in America.
Lyndon Johnson “privatized” it, sort of; the debt was so large by that time that he needed to take it off of the government balance sheets, so it was converted to a publicly traded company owned by investors. Poof. The government debt went away. Now it was a capitalistic Wall Street Baron entity.
Remember, first, the government sought to ease the bad-debt ratio of the private lending institutions, by taking on that bad debt. Now, the government sent its own bad-debt ratio right back to private institutions, to get rid of that bad debt. See?
Freddie Mac was initially born, not out of any economic necessity, but due to the felt need by government officials that Fannie Mae should not be a monopoly; Freddie Mac would provide competition for Fannie Mae. See? Kind of like in the free market, sort of, almost.
Note well that, in a free market economy, neither entity would ever have even come into existence on its own, because no entrepreneur in his right mind would try to establish such an institution with a long view of making money over the long run. The product that it buys, or invests in, is questionable mortgage paper. If it was questionable to begin with, why would any business entrepreneur expect it to turn golden at some point in the future? There is no “market” for this type of business; if there were, someone would be drawn to “find a need and fill it.” There is and was no real market need for this type of service to begin with. Our government invented Fannie Mae; it would not exist otherwise, there was and is no real market for it, and there is no way that it ever would have come into being on its own, created by a completely free market. Ditto, Freddie Mac.
Freddie Mac; Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation. Created by Congress in 1970.
Government Purpose: To provide competition for Fannie Mae, so that there would not be a single monopoly in the bad debt marketplace. There were no other “competitors” out there. (Gee, I wonder why.)
Corporate Purpose: To create and maintain a continuous, reliable and low cost Credit flow to financial institutions, to be used by financial institutions exclusively for home mortgages for American citizens who might not otherwise qualify for such credit. Overriding purpose was to increase single family home ownership in America by allowing marginally qualified home buyers an additional boost in their qualifying credit and allow them to buy a mortgage they might not otherwise be granted by financial institutions running in a purely free economy.
Over the years these two entities became financial behemoths, and came to dominate the whole mortgage market, by shear numbers, even though they were originally created to comprise the toxic or high risk mortgage market. The reason was that other more legitimate, competitive, free-market lending institutions came to see them as a no-lose investment port, because of their supposedly close relationship with the American government, and the belief that the American government would never allow them to fail. Private lenders were ever increasingly accepting questionable mortgages and then selling the questionable paper off to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. This paper came to be known as the sub prime mortgage market. It is now huge.
Fannie and Freddie either hold their questionable mortgage notes, sometimes referred to as toxic or as high risk, in their own portfolios as “investments”, or re-sells them as mortgage backed securities. Just as it has long been known in the physical world of toxicity, the solution to pollution is dilution, many of the least risky notes are bundled with a few of the most risky ones to make them more palatable to investors. Much as an auctioneer would bundle some unpopular item with a more sought-after item just to get rid of it.
Unfortunately, many of the investors who bought these securities from Fannie and Freddie, partially induced by the “knowledge” that the American government would never let Fannie or Freddie fail, further diluted them by re-bundling them with good mortgages and re-selling them to other investors, thus getting rid of them.
At this point, there are probably no large investing institutions that are unaffected by this. When the speculative housing bubble burst, it began the cascade of events that led to the current crisis; the chickens are coming home to roost. Everybody is now recognizing the simple fact that:
What was a bad loan before remains a bad loan today.
And it matters not who is currently holding the bag. It remains a bad loan that never should have been made.
Exacerbating the situation are, of course, the huge number of scandals associated with both Fannie and Freddie, including skimming by officials associated with Democrats such as Obama. Other scandals involve organizations such as ACORN, again deeply associated with Obama, getting Fannie/Freddie home loans for illegal aliens in return for illegal alien participation in voter fraud on a massive scale.
Many shaky mortgages backed by Fannie/Freddie were the products of the mild form of extortion patented by the likes of Jesse Jackson, in which banks or S&Ls were strong-armed into granting loans in “red lined” areas and to specific minorities, regardless of ability or even intention to pay. An illegal alien who is party to one of these mortgages has no real need to honor it. He can strip the property for what he can get for the plumbing, wiring or whatever, whenever he’s ready to go home to Mexico for awhile. When he next returns here illegally, he can assume another ID and do it all again, with help from organizations such as ACORN and La Raza and the Democrat Party.
The most galling thing of all may be the way Speaker Pelosi wagged her finger to the right and publicly blamed the eight years of the Bush administration resisting regulation for causing this mess. As a matter of fact, few organizations other than Fannie and Freddie have called for more regulation by Republicans, including during Bush’s administration, and it was all blocked by Pelosi and the Democrats, who were driving the financial crisis bus. Time after time, Republican attempts to look into scandals, increase oversight and improve existing or implement new governing regulations were thwarted by the very Democrats who now blame Republicans.
This includes Obama, and, not insignificantly, the self-outed and publicly very-proud-of-it Rep. Barney Frank, notorious as The House Faggot. He’s into Fannie and Freddie up to his neck, and vociferously defended them against all Republican attempts to increase their regulation. Then he pointed at Bush and said he did it!
Where will it end?
Unfortunately, no one can answer that question with any real accuracy. The problem will not go away until we (or the government) recognize the fact that what was a bad mortgage before remains a bad mortgage today. Bad mortgages never should have been made, and they should be allowed to fail. Unfortunately, the problem has grown so huge that now the whole world’s credit market is adversely affected, and lots of other contracts could fail, many of them through no fault of either of the originating parties to them. When banks and financial institutions fail in an apparent dominoe-like cascade, it’s hard to see where it will end.
But I can tell you this: if the government does nothing, we will not all die. There will be a recession, due to a credit/money crunch until the market sorts itself out. Mortgages that should have failed will indeed fail, and should be allowed to fail. It’s the only way for the market to self-correct.
I have no idea where it will all end. But every time central planners mess with the market, they hurt it. Before you introduce a new change into any system you have to ask the question, will the change help, or hinder, the function of the system?
Central planning and free market capitalism are mutually exclusive ideas.
I’m not thrilled with McCain’s and/or Bush’s we’ve got to act and act now or the world will end serious attempts at bipartisan solution, because I don’t believe the world will end, unless government makes it end. Things might get bad, maybe even very bad, but the market, if left alone, will eventually correct itself. Maybe it really has hit a point where, as Bush says, something simply must be done. If that is so, then my prayer is that they will do the least necessary, and don’t just move the paper around again. Sooner or later, it must be recognized that there is and there will be no real market anywhere for this government invented toxic paper.
The worst imaginable thing that could come out of all of this might be the specter of an Obama Presidency. Listen to what he said wants to do, as President, in the face of this financial crisis, as he said in his debate. Make sure nobody loses his home. Get us all energy independent within ten years. Ensure that all (yes, all) American children can afford a college education. Replace our entire infrastructure of roads and bridges and overpasses. Provide socialized medicine for everyone. This is just a partial list of what I can remember that he said, in response to a question of what he might cut from his plan in light of the crisis. What can I say?
Modern American Marxists don’t see government spending as what it is, which is, precisely, consumptive; they see it and refer to it as an investment. They think it will somehow make money. Government never makes money. Only free people do that. Government may only spend money. If they were really serious about their mantra, “investing in the future” then they would be working for a nationwide increase in simple Judao-Christian morality. But then, that is something they truly hate.
Obama, and the Democrats, are, essentially, Central Planners. Socialized medicine, socialized education, socialized etc., are all Socialist notions straight out of Marx and the Communist Manifesto. Tax increases for some and cuts and/or rebates for others is Socialist redistributionism, pure and simple. They seek to put the highest level of government in charge of the minutest details of citizen life, and to take care of us. God help us all if they succeed.
While there were other contributing factors, not the least of which was the rather incredible housing market bubble, partially fed by flippers, which eventually burst. And there were high-risk speculators and investment gamblers operating on small margins, as back in the pre-Great Depression days; but, again, these are factors that, left alone, are eventually self correcting, to the dismay of the flippers and the speculators. Unless the government interferes with the process.
The really bad thing is that this crisis shows that there are no Reagan Republicans left in high office, either in Congress or in the White House. But, while we might be very dissatisfied with current Republican performance, it could be worse. We could have a Democrat in the White House along with a Democrat controlled Congress.
Pray for America, and look out for your neighbor.
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