The Great Housing Crash of ’07

by MIKE WHITNEY

This month’s figures prove that the so-called "housing bubble" is not only real, but that its cratering faster than anyone had realized. As the UK Guardian reported just yesterday, "the orderly housing slowdown predicted by the Federal Reserve will (soon) become a full-blown crash".

All the indicators are now pointing in the wrong direction. Consumer confidence is down, inventory is at a 10 year high, and the number of homes sold in July was 22% lower than last year. As Paul Ashworth, chief economist at Capital Economics said, "Things seem to be getting worse very quickly. Freefall is a strong word, but I think it’s the right one to use here." (UK Guardian)

The housing bubble is a $10 trillion equity balloon that will explode sometime in 2007 when more than $1 trillion in no-interest, no down payment, adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) reset; setting the stage for massive home devaluation, foreclosures and unemployment. ("By some estimates housing activity has accounted for 40% of all the jobs created since 2001". Times Online) July’s plunging sales are just the first sign of a major slowdown. The worst is yet to come.

The blame for this rapidly-approaching meltdown lies entirely with the Federal Reserve, the privately-owned collection of 10 central banks who cooked up a way to shift wealth from one class to another through low interest rates.

Sound crazy?

Well, just as high interest rates cause the economy to slow down; low interest rates have the exact opposite effect by stimulating the economy through increased spending. It’s all pretty clear-cut.

When the stock market nose-dived in 2000 the Fed lowered rates 17 times to an unbelievable 1% to keep the economy sputtering-along while the Bush administration dragged the country to war, gave away $450 billion a year in tax cuts, and awarded zillions in no bid contracts to their friends in big business. All tolled, the Bush-handouts amounted to roughly $3 trillion dollars, the largest heist in history, and it was carried out under the nose of the snoozing American public.

At the same time, America’s debts and deficits have continued to mushroom behind the smokescreen of low interest rates.

Rather than face the recession which should have followed stock market crash, the Fed chose to increase the money supply (which doubled in the last 7 years) and lower the qualifications for getting mortgages. (I read recently that 90% of first time home buyers not only lie on their mortgage applications, but that 50% of them say that they earn TWICE as much as they really do. The applications are not cross-checked with IRS statements) Now, tens of thousands of Americans live in $400,000 and $500,000 homes without a penny of equity in them and with loans that are timed to increase dramatically in 2007. (Many of the monthly payments will double)

So, how can we blame the Fed for the reckless and irresponsible behavior of the average homeowner?

Well, because they knew the effects of their "cheap money" policy every step of the way.

First of all, the Fed knew exactly where the money was going. Greenspan endorsed the shabby new lending-regime which put hundreds of billions of dollars in the hands of people who never should have qualified for mortgages. They were set up to fail just like the victims in the stock market scam who kept dumping their life savings in the NASDAQ when PE’s were shooting through the stratosphere.

Secondly, the Fed knew that wages had actually regressed (2.3%) since Bush took office, so they knew that the soaring value of real estate was entirely predicated on debt not real wealth. In other words, home values increased because of the availability of cheap money which inevitably creates a buying-frenzy. It had nothing to do with real demand or growth in wages.

And, thirdly, according to the Fed’s own figures, "the total amount of residential housing wealth in the US just about doubled between 1999 and 2006"up from $10.4 trillion to $20.4 trillion". Times Online.

UP $10 TRILLION IN 7 YEARS! That is the very definition of a humongous, economy-killing equity monster. In other words, the Fed knew the ACTUAL SIZE OF THE BUBBLE and chose to steer it towards the nearest iceberg without warning the public.

This is what Greenspan called "a little froth".

There is no real growth in the American economy. Figure it out. Last year Americans saved less than 0% of their net earnings while they borrowed a whopping $600 billion from their home equity to piss-away on a consumer spending-spree. Once home prices begin to retreat, that $600 billion will evaporate, real GDP will shrivel, and the economy will begin flat-lining. (Consumer spending is 70% of GDP)

The Federal Reserve’s plan is so simple; we shouldn’t dignify it by calling it a conspiracy. It’s merely a matter of hypnotizing the masses with low interest rates while trillions of dollars of real wealth is diverted to corporate big-wigs and American plutocrats.

It might not be rocket science, but it worked like a charm.

Now, the trap-door has been sprung; the country is dead-broke and all the levers are in place for a police state. As the housing-balloon slowly limps towards earth, the new Halliburton detention centers are up and running, the National Guard is in Rummy’s control, the Feds are able to listen-in on every phone call we make.

The noose is beginning to tighten.

New Orleans was just a dress rehearsal for the new world order; 300,000 million Americans reduced to grinding poverty while the economy explodes into sheets of flames.

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He can be reached at: fergiewhitney@msn.com


 

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
August 05, 2015
John Eskow
The Fake Courage of Caitlyn Jenner
Mike Whitney
 The Brookings Institute Plan to Liquidate Syria 
John K. White
Life on the Layaway Plan: We’re All Greek Now
Ted Rall
14 Years Ago, a Woman Vindicated Me Now
Thomas Mountain
A Letter From Africa to #BlackLivesMatter
Roger Annis
Well-Known Canadian Journalist Visits Ukraine and Praises neo-Nazi
August 04, 2015
Vincent J. Roscigno
University Bureaucracy as Organized Crime
Paul Street
Bernie Sanders’ Top Five Race Problems: the Whiteness of Nominal Socialism
Herbert Dyer, Jr.
Is White Supremacy a Mental Disorder?
Ramzy Baroud
The Palestinian Bubble and the Burning of Toddler, Ali Dawabsha
Pepe Escobar
Reshuffling Eurasia’s Energy Deck — Iran, China and Pipelineistan
L. Michael Hager
The Battle Over BDS
Eric Draitser
Puerto Rico: Troubled Commonwealth or Debt Colony?
Colin Todhunter
Hypnotic Trance in Delhi: Monsanto, GMOs and the Looting of India’s Agriculture
Benjamin Willis
The New Cubanologos: What’s in a Word?
Matt Peppe
60 Minutes Provides Platform for US Military
Binoy Kampmark
The Turkish Mission: Reining in the Kurds
Eoin Higgins
Teaching Lessons of White Supremacy in Prime-Time: Blackrifice in the Post-Apocalyptic World of the CW’s The 100
Gary Corseri
Gaza: Our Child’s Shattered Face in the Mirror
Robert Dodge
The Nuclear World at 70
Paula Bach
Exit the Euro? Polemic with Greek Economist Costas Lapavitsas
August 03, 2015
Jack Dresser
The Case of Alison Weir: Two Palestinian Solidarity Organizations Borrow from Joe McCarthy’s Playbook
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
The Atomic Era Turns 70, as Nuclear Hazards Endure
Nelson Valdes
An Internet Legend: the Pope, Fidel and the Black President
Robert Hunziker
The Perfectly Nasty Ocean Storm
Ahmad Moussa
Incinerating Palestinian Children
Greg Felton
Greece Succumbs to Imperialist Banksterism
Binoy Kampmark
Stalling the Trans-Pacific Partnership: the Failure of the Hawai’i Talks
Ted Rall
My Letter to Nick Goldberg of the LA Times
Mark Weisbrot
New Greek Bailout Increases the Possibility of Grexit
Jose Martinez
Black/Hispanic/Women: a Leadership Crisis
Victor Grossman
German Know-Nothings Today
Patrick Walker
We’re Not Sandernistas: Reinventing the Wheels of Bernie’s Bandwagon
Norman Pollack
Moral Consequences of War: America’s Hegemonic Thirst
Ralph Nader
Republicans Support Massive Tax Evasion by Starving IRS Budget
Alexander Reid Ross
Colonial Pride and the Killing of Cecil the Lion
Suhayb Ahmed
What’s Happening in Britain: Jeremy Corbyn and the Future of the Labour Party
Weekend Edition
July 31-33, 2015
Jeffrey St. Clair
Bernie and the Sandernistas: Into the Void
John Pilger
Julian Assange: the Untold Story of an Epic Struggle for Justice
Roberto J. González – David Price
Remaking the Human Terrain: The US Military’s Continuing Quest to Commandeer Culture
Lawrence Ware
Bernie Sanders’ Race Problem
Andrew Levine
The Logic of Illlogic: Narrow Self-Interest Keeps Israel’s “Existential Threats” Alive
ANDRE VLTCHEK
Kos, Bodrum, Desperate Refugees and a Dying Child
Paul Street
“That’s Politics”: the Sandernistas on the Master’s Schedule
Ted Rall
How the LAPD Conspired to Get Me Fired from the LA Times