What in the world is going on here?
You’ve seen the headlines, and you heard of the failures and buyouts. Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, AIG; all big names and all in big trouble. Then those mysterious quasi-government agencies with names like Freddie and Fannie become wards of the state and you learn that you and your fellow taxpayers are potentially on the hook for tens of billions of dollars. At the end of the week Washington Mutual is looking for a buyer, and you start to wonder about the security of your own bank and your own savings account. Let’s change that ad copy to WaMu -- boo hoo.
Somewhere in the back of your mind you understand that this is all tied somehow to bad mortgages. If you start reading a bit further to enhance your understanding you run into terms like Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS) and credit-default swaps, whatever in the world those are. Read further and you find out that a combination of falling home prices and mortgage defaults have put many investment banks and other financial institutions in deep puddin’. All this reading, all this watching the talking heads on TV, and you still don’t really know what in the world is going on here.
Fear not. I’m here to help. I know … I’m just another talk show host; but the fact is that when the stage was being set for the problems we’re seeing today I was making most of my money as a real estate lawyer .. closing loans for some of the very institutions that are the tank today. This rather unique combination – closing lawyer and radio talk show host – gave me a front row seat to the politicization of mortgage loans that led us to today’s headlines.
OK .. so we all know that a lot of really bad real estate loans were made. The political class would sure love for us to believe that the blame here rests squarely on “greedy” (try to define that word) mortgage brokers and lenders. The truth is that most of the blame rests on political meddling in the credit decisions of these mortgage lenders.