Summarizing the Mortgage Meltdown
Jim Kunstler nicely summarizies how we arrived at the mortgage disaster. He leaves little to be said.
Last week's stock market meltdown suggested that a financial sector rigged for the falsification of reality eventually enters a danger zone where reality implacably reasserts itself, expectations dissolve, and all that remains is the sour odor of fraud.
This long episode of market mania, running for seven years, was based on the idea that non-performing loans could be turned into money by removing them from their point of origin and dressing them up in respectable clothes -- like taking all the winos in downtown Los Angeles, putting them in Prada suits, and passing them off as the faculty of the Harvard Business School. It was a transparently ludicrous racket and the wonder is that America proved to be so utterly bereft of regulating authority -- not to mention plain decency and self-restraint --at every stage.
It's really hard to account for the stunning failure of responsibility. What you had was a whole industry that surrendered the standards and norms that brought it into being and enabled it to function in the first place. Mortgage lenders stopped requiring house-buyers to qualify for loans; bankers stopped caring what stood behind the paper they issued; dubious loans were bundled and resold like barrels of rotten anchovies -- in such numbers that no individual stinking minnow would stand out -- and the barrels were traded up the line, leveraged, hedged, fudged, fobbed, and fiddled until, abracadabra, they were transformed into so many Tribeca lofts, Hampton villas, Piaget wristwatches, million-dollar birthday parties, and Gulfstream jets.
It worked for the Goldman Sachs bonus babies, and the private equity scammers, and for the corporate CEOs and their board members, and for the politicians who parlayed their votes into cushy lobbying jobs, and even for the miserable quants in the federal government's termite mounds of statistical reportage. It even worked for about 18 months for millions of feckless US citizens gulled into contracts for houses they could never hope to pay for, under arrantly false and ruinous terms
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