Market Meltdown


Protests against corporate greed and economic inequality spread across America.

Spreading unrest: Protesters gather on the front steps of the Idaho Capitol in Boise, Idaho.


The Occupy Wall Street movement, that began in New York last month with a few people, has now swelled to protests in more than a dozen cities.

They included Tampa, Florida; Trenton and Jersey City, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Norfolk, Virginia in the East; to Chicago and St. Louis in the Midwest; Houston, San Antonio and Austin in Texas; Nashville, Tennessee; and Portland, Oregon, Seattle and Los Angeles in the West.

To understand how we got to this, we need to take a short look at history.

The Time Line of Events

This televised report aired in September 2004 and can be viewed here. In the space of four minutes, it attempts to time line the events leading to the greatest economic failure since the Great Depression.

A significant portion of the events leading up to the Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac debacle begins in – believe it or not – 1977

1977

The Community Reinvestment Act (or CRA, Pub.L. 95-128, title VIII, 91 Stat. 1147, 12 U.S.C. § 2901 et seq.) is a United States federal law designed to encourage commercial banks and savings associations to meet the needs of borrowers in all segments of their communities, including low- and moderate-income neighborhoods. Congress passed the Act in 1977 to reduce discriminatory credit practices against low-income neighborhoods, a practice known as redlining. The Act requires the appropriate federal financial supervisory agencies to encourage regulated financial institutions to meet the credit needs of the local communities in which they are chartered, consistent with safe and sound operation. To enforce the statute, federal regulatory agencies examine banking institutions for CRA compliance, and take this information into consideration when approving applications for new bank branches or for mergers or acquisitions.

And who signed this beautiful piece of legislation into law? The original Act was passed by the 95th United States Congress and signed into law by President Jimmy Carter in 1977.

1995

In 1995 Clinton loosened housing rules by rewriting the Community Reinvestment Act, which put added pressure on banks to lend in low-income neighborhoods. It is the subject of heated political and scholarly debate whether any of these moves are to blame for our troubles, but they certainly played a role in creating a permissive lending environment. He also signed the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which exempted credit-default swaps from regulation.

Clinton admitted that his Administration could have done more to “set in motion some more formal regulation of the derivatives market,” but he vehemently denied that the repeal of Glass-Steagall or his Administration’s housing policies helped spur the financial crisis.

1999

September In a move that could help increase home ownership rates among minorities and low-income consumers, the Fannie Mae Corporation is easing the credit requirements on loans that it will purchase from banks and other lenders.

November: Clinton signs banking overhaul measure. Congress passed the bipartisan measure November 5, opening the way for a blossoming of financial “supermarkets” selling loans, investments and insurance. Proponents had pushed the legislation in Congress for two decades, and Wall Street and the banking and insurance industries had poured millions of dollars into lobbying for it in the past few years. “It was sweaty, it was tense, but it had momentum,” Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York) said of the final bargaining session. He and Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Connecticut) whose states are home to Wall Street and the banking industry (New York) and the insurance industry (Connecticut), helped broker the agreement.

Scandal at Fannie Mae

Corrupted political leaders contributed to the debacle we now wake up to every morning. In a Wall Street Journal analysis, the failure of the GSE’s began shortly after their 2003 and 2004 accounting scandals. Senior executives at Fannie Mae manipulated accounting to collect millions of dollars in undeserved bonuses and to deceive investors. The government-sponsored mortgage company was fined $400 million.

Franklin Delano Raines once a prominent Democrat and CEO of Fannie Mae, and Leland Brendsel, the CEO of Freddie Mac were removed from their assigned office in the wake of the multibillion-dollar accounting scandal. Source:The Fall of Fannie Mae

Many Warnings Ignored


Spanning a period of 6 years, President Bush and his Administration have not only warned of the systemic consequences of failure to reform GSEs but also put forward thoughtful plans to reduce the risk that either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac would encounter such difficulties.

Beginning as early as 2001, the President made repeated attempts to reform the supervision of these entities but was thwarted by the legislative maneuvering of those who emphatically denied there were problems with the GSEs.

The mounting and overwhelming evidence points to the fact many Democrats chose to drive while their eyes were closed, ignoring call after call to fix the problem and in some cases, belligerently and arrogantly denying any problem existed with their policies.

Fast Forward — October, 2011

Now, three years after the meltdown of 2008, we watch in amazement as the disillusioned take to the streets to protest against Wall Street and the banks.

It’s a bit ironic once you realize that the failed policies designed to give them what they want – easier access to housing being among them – turns out to be the catalyst to send them out into the streets in protest. Too self-centered to see it, or too stupid to understand, they are actually protesting against their own principles and philosophies, the outcome of which they apparently don’t like.

Cry Baby, cry.

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IWantYourMoney
Update:
President Obama “spoke candidly” in an interview with Fox News Wednesday, (November 18) from China, warning about the risks of spending money to “stimulate” the economy without increasing the already astronomical deficit.

He also spoke about tax incentives for businesses to reverse the rising unemployment rate.

“There may be some tax provisions that can encourage businesses to hire sooner rather than sitting on the sidelines. So we’re taking a look at those,” Obama told Fox News’ Major Garrett.

“I think it is important, though, to recognize if we keep on adding to the debt, even in the midst of this recovery, that at some point, people could lose confidence in the U.S. economy in a way that could actually lead to a double-dip recession.”

A double-dip recession is when gross domestic product (GDP) growth slides back to negative after a quarter or two of positive growth. It refers to a recession followed by a short-lived recovery, followed by another recession.

The causes for a double-dip recession vary but often include a slowdown in the demand for goods and services because of layoffs and spending cutbacks from the previous downturn.

A double-dip (or even triple-dip) is a worst-case scenario. Fear that the economy will move back into a deeper and longer recession makes recovery even more difficult.

Obama should be cutting taxes, not raising them.

Obama’s health care bill threatens businesses and working individuals with a new battery of taxes but taxes won’t be enough to help offset its costs. To help offset costs, the bill takes away tax incentives designed to encourage businesses to invest into the economy in certain ways, such as investing in solar cell technologies.

As if this weren’t bad enough, the Cap and Trade bill looms on the horizon. If passed into law it will further tax industry. Economics 101 tells us that tax burden will be passed to the consumer.

At this point it would appear America is on the verge of being taxed to death and suggests President Obama’s tax and spend policies will continue to exacerbate America’s anemic economy even further.

Take A Page From History, Mr. Obama

In 1924, Secretary of Treasury Andrew Mellon wrote,

“It seems difficult for some to understand that high rates of taxation do not necessarily mean large revenue to the Government, and that more revenue may often be obtained by lower rates.”

Mellon pushed for a reduction of taxes on the rich, which were pegged at 73% and eventually it was reduced to 24%. The resulting decrease in these taxes, as well as tax breaks for lower brackets, saw personal income-tax receipts rise from $719 million in 1921 to over $1 billion in 1929, which many attributed to the rate cut.

According to economists out of UCLA, after scrutinizing Roosevelt’s record for four years, Harold L. Cole and Lee E. Ohanian conclude in a study that New Deal policies signed into law 71 years ago thwarted economic recovery for seven long years.

“Why the Great Depression lasted so long has always been a great mystery, and because we never really knew the reason, we have always worried whether we would have another 10- to 15-year economic slump,” said Ohanian, vice chair of UCLA’s Department of Economics. “We found that a relapse isn’t likely unless lawmakers gum up a recovery with ill-conceived stimulus policies.”

In their article in the August 2004 issue of the Journal of Political Economy, Ohanian and Cole blame specific anti-competition and pro-labor measures that Roosevelt promoted and signed into law June 16, 1933.

A more recent article in the Wall Street Journal reaffirms the findings of the Journal of Political Economy article.

From the Joint Economic Committee Report of 2006, “The Reagan Tax Cuts: Lessons for Tax Reform”,

The 1993 Clinton tax increase appears to having the opposite effect on the willingness of wealthy taxpayers to expose income to taxation. According to IRS data, the income generated by the top one percent of income earners actually declined in 1993. This decline is especially significant since the retroactivity of the Clinton tax increase in that year limited the ability of taxpayers to deploy tax avoidance strategies, temporarily resulting in an increase in their tax burden. Moreover, according to the FY 1997 Clinton budget submission, individual income tax revenues as a share of GDP will be lower during the first four years of the Clinton tax increase, which include the effects of the 1990 tax increase, than under the last four years of the Reagan tax changes (FY 1986-89). Furthermore, according to a study published by the National Bureau for Economic Research,[2] the Clinton tax hike is failing to collect over 40 percent of the projected revenue increases.

Incidentally, the claim that unrealistic supply side Reagan Administration revenue projections caused large budget deficits during the 1980s is false. Nonetheless, this false allegation is often used against current tax reform proposals. The official Reagan revenue projections immediately following enactment of ERTA did not assume huge revenue increases, and were actually quite close to the CBO revenue projections. Even the Democrat-controlled CBO projected that deficits would fall after the enactment of the Reagan tax cuts. The real problem was a recession that neither CBO nor OMB could foresee. Even so, individual income tax revenues rose from $244 billion in 1980 to $446 billion in 1989.

Even President Clinton’s economic advisers understood this economic fundamental. Looking back to the the Economic Recovery Tax Act (ERTA) of 1981, President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers in 1994 summarized the economic benefits of ERTA, the Reagan tax cuts, by saying,

“It is undeniable that the sharp reduction in taxes in the early 1980s was a strong impetus to economic growth.”

New shackles upon America’s economy

How does America effectively compete with the rest of the world when the cost of doing business shackles America’s economy? How will Americans be able to pump their discretionary income into the economy when they have less money in their pockets?

I doubt most are aware of this one, but Americans now have to think about their new $2,631.00 tax increase (per year) brought upon them by the 2007 Senate Budget, described as the largest tax increase in America’s history.
DownwardEconomicSpiral2009
If this additional tax burden has you worried, consider too that America’s business leaders will be looking for new ways to compete with the rest of the world, unshackled by the expenses associated with new health care taxes and taxes upon business brought to them (and us) via the looming Cap and Trade bill. It will probably result in American businesses sending more jobs off-shore to take advantage of a more hospitable business climate. This will no doubt add to the already rising rate of unemployment which will further reduce the level of discretionary income to be pumped into the already anemic economy.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that when consumers are over-burdened with taxes, it means less discretionary income to spread onto the economy. Without that revenue, businesses will report a smaller tax basis to the federal government and to their surprise, their tax revenue doesn’t increase, it actually decreases. What is worse is that business will not be able to replenish an inventory which doesn’t move and so factory orders will diminish as well. This will lead to more unemployment, factory closings and will leave this Obama administration believing they didn’t raise taxes enough.

death-spiral

It’s a death spiral for America.

Today, the U.S. government reports the federal deficit has reached $1.42 trillion dollars, the largest since World War II. We have 2 more months left in the year so we can expect this number to go up a bit more. Contrast this against the budget deficit for 2008 which was $455 billion.

The Obama administration projects the deficit will total $9.1 trillion over the next decade unless corrective action is taken.

As a portion of the economy, the budget deficit stood at 10 percent, the highest since World War II, according to government data released Friday.

For 2009, the government collected $2.10 trillion in revenues, a 16.6 percent drop from 2008. The plunge reflected declining income tax collections as millions of Americans lost their jobs or saw their wages cut. Corporate taxes also plummeted as the recession squeezed companies’ profit margins.

Government spending last year jumped to $3.52 trillion, up 18.2 percent over 2008. The $700 billion financial bailout fund and increased spending and tax relief from the $787 billion economic stimulus program that Obama pushed through Congress in February drove the increase.

For September, a month when the government usually records surpluses, the deficit totaled $46.6 billion. That’s a sharp contrast to the $45.7 billion surplus in September 2008, the last time the government’s books were in the black.

Failure to curb runaway deficits could push interest rates and inflation higher, and send the dollar crashing if foreigners suddenly started dumping their holdings of Treasury securities.

None of those problems are evident now as the worst recession since the 1930s has depressed borrowing by consumers and businesses, giving the government a break on the interest it paid this year on the record debt. Net interest payments actually fell by about $10 billion in 2009 from 2008.

But economists worry investors will grow fearful of the nation’s ability to repay all the debt unless the administration and Congress begin developing credible plans to deal with the deficit problem once the recession has ended and unemployment has begun to come down.

The data show government transfers and rebates have not increased consumption at all.

Is the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 working? At the time of the act’s passage last February, this question was hotly debated. Administration economists cited Keynesian models that predicted that the $787 billion stimulus package would increase GDP by enough to create 3.6 million jobs. Our own research showed that more modern macroeconomic models predicted only one-sixth of that GDP impact. Estimates by economist Robert Barro of Harvard predicted the impact would not be significantly different from zero.

Now, six months after the act’s passage, we no longer have to rely solely on the predictions of models. We can look and see what actually happened.

Consider first the part of the package that consists of government transfers and rebates. These include one-time payments of $250 to eligible individuals receiving Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, veterans benefits or railroad retirement benefits–and temporary reductions in income-tax withholding for a refundable tax credit of up to $400 for individuals and $800 for families with incomes below certain thresholds. These payments, which began in March of this year, were intended to increase consumption that would help jump-start the economy. Now that a good fraction of these actions have taken place, we can assess their impact.

Read the Wall Street Journal article here.

Incoming data will reveal more in coming months, but the data available so far tell us that the government transfers and rebates have not stimulated consumption at all, and that the resilience of the private sector following the fall 2008 panic–not the fiscal stimulus program–deserves the lion’s share of the credit for the impressive growth improvement from the first to the second quarter. As the economic recovery takes hold, it is important to continue assessing the role played by the stimulus package and other factors. These assessments can be a valuable guide to future policy makers in designing effective policy responses to economic downturns.

Washington: The Federal Reserve sharply stepped up its efforts to bolster the economy on Wednesday, announcing that it would pump an extra $1 trillion into the financial system by purchasing Treasury bonds and mortgage securities.

Having already reduced the key interest rate it controls nearly to zero, the central bank has increasingly turned to alternatives like buying securities as a way of getting more dollars into the economy, a tactic that amounts to creating vast new sums of money out of thin air. But the moves on Wednesday were its biggest yet, almost doubling all of the Fed’s measures in the last year.

The action makes the Fed a buyer of long-term government bonds rather than the short-term debt that it typically buys and sells to help control the money supply.

The idea was to encourage more economic activity by lowering interest rates, including those on home loans, and to help the financial system as it struggles under the crushing weight of bad loans and poor investments.”

Full story here.

ED:

Treasury monetizes debt by printing 1 trillion dollars to inject into economy – effectively borrowing from itself.

Taking such a measure this drastic means the “patient” is almost dead and this “injection” is a last ditch effort to save it.

International Herald Tribune: “Democratic takeover of Congress was major victory for Fannie and Freddie … Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two mortgage finance giants, which have been recovering from accounting scandals, had faced the possibility of tight new oversight laws pushed largely by Republicans. But some powerful Democrats had resisted, preferring to promote the companies’ housing mission over tighter capital standards and portfolio limits. (International Herald Tribune, 11/8/06)

American Banker: “Democrats Oppose White House plan to strengthen Fannie and Freddie oversight.” In late summer Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson Jr. began an effort to reach an agreement in the Senate, where Democrats oppose a White House-favored provision that would force Fannie and Freddie Mac to slash their mortgage portfolios. (American Banker, 12/1/06)

Origination News: “Until recently, the administration and Sen. Shelby have pushed for limits on the size of the GSE portfolios, which Democrats opposed. Now it appears that Secretary Paulson will insist on language that would allow the new GSE regulator to use systemic risk considerations in determining proper size of the portfolios. But the Democrats see systemic risk as a code word for portfolio limits.” (Origination News, 12/1/06)

Since 1989, Rep. Frank has received $42,350 from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. (Lindsay Renick Mayer, “Fannie Mae And Freddie Mac Invest In Lawmakers,” Center For Responsive Politics’ “Capital Eye” Blog, www.opensecrets.org)

Since 1989, Senator Reid has received $77,000 from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. (Lindsay Renick Mayer, “Fannie Mae And Freddie Mac Invest In Lawmakers,” Center For Responsive Politics’ “Capital Eye” Blog, www.opensecrets.org)

Since 1989, Sen. Dodd has received $165,400 from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, more than any other Member of Congress. (Lindsay Renick Mayer, “Fannie Mae And Freddie Mac Invest In Lawmakers,” Center For Responsive Politics’ “Capital Eye” Blog, www.opensecrets.org)

Since 1989, Sen. Carper has received $55,889 from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. (Lindsay Renick Mayer, “Fannie Mae And Freddie Mac Invest In Lawmakers,” Center For Responsive Politics’ “Capital Eye” Blog, www.opensecrets.org)

In just four years, Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) has received $126,349 from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, more than any Member of Congress except for Sen. Dodd. (Lindsay Renick Mayer, “Fannie Mae And Freddie Mac Invest In Lawmakers,” Center For Responsive Politics’ “Capital Eye” Blog, www.opensecrets.org)

Since 1989, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) has received $111,000 from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. (Lindsay Renick Mayer, “Fannie Mae And Freddie Mac Invest In Lawmakers,” Center For Responsive Politics’ “Capital Eye” Blog, www.opensecrets.org)

Since 1989, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) has received $76,050 from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. (Lindsay Renick Mayer, “Fannie Mae And Freddie Mac Invest In Lawmakers,” Center For Responsive Politics’ “Capital Eye” Blog, www.opensecrets.org)

Since 1989, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has received $56,250 from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. (Lindsay Renick Mayer, “Fannie Mae And Freddie Mac Invest In Lawmakers,” Center For Responsive Politics’ “Capital Eye” Blog, www.opensecrets.org)

Since 1989, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) has received $51,750 from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. (Lindsay Renick Mayer, “Fannie Mae And Freddie Mac Invest In Lawmakers,” Center For Responsive Politics’ “Capital Eye” Blog, www.opensecrets.org)

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