Monday, September 08, 2008

Mac And Mae Rock Rot Sets In

Bush has done a Brown and bailed out Freddie and Fannie. This is not about economics, this is about greed. Here, ours had the solid-sounding name of Northern Rock. But the names disguise the festering financial fiasco beneath all of them. 

The banks should never have been allowed to get in the mess in the first place.

Taxpayers are propping up Northern Rock to the tune of ten of billions of pounds. The US always does things bigger. Fannie May and Freddie Mac have liabilities running into hundreds of billions of dollars.

The sub-prime mortgage model started in the US and, like many things, the government was happy to import it, warts and all.

What has happened is the result of a flawed borrowing model, only concerned with making a fast buck.

Out went the traditional checks, where borrowing depended on solid factors like income and how much cash the lenders actually had in the bank. In came the model which simply assessed risk, lent accordingly and bundled off the more risky bond debts to be sold on. 

Fine, if money's freely available. But not when the Middle and Far East banks, which held the bond debt, took a look and decided to withdraw their investment.

Here the treasury, Bank of England and Financial Services Authority sat back, let it all happen and blamed each other when it all went pear-shaped. In the US the same questions will be asked and the future is unclear and uncertain. 

Economic analysists are quick to call it all the result of a mythical "credit crunch", when it's nothing of the sort. It's a deliberately created debt culture. 

On both sides of the Atlantic, people were lulled into a false sense of security and allowed to borrow up to the hilt and beyond. 

Mortgages became loans and were started on fixed, short-term, cheaper rates for just a couple of years, to hook in the customers. The repercussions are repossessions. And spiralling debt.

The Wall Street Journal notes how Fannie and Freddie expanded their exposure to the more risky loans, despite executives warning of the consequences two years ago. 

The two companies "shunned the riskiest type of mortgages, only to embrace those mortgages late in the game in an effort to regain market share from Wall Street rivals."

The winners from this cheap credit for all, were the lenders, who made fat profits. And the losers? Everyone else.

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