I launched into a diatribe on Quiggleme.com on who bears responsibility for the bubble we are now watching deflate. I wanted to share it here. So who is responsible? Borrowers, lenders, investors, the FED: IMO, they are all responsible; it is only a matter of degree.
Irresponsible borrowers are like children, if you offer them something they want, no matter the terms, they will take it. The federal government realized this basic fact years ago when they passed predatory lending laws. Does that make the borrower any less responsible? No, but by definition, sub-prime borrowers are irresponsible. If they took responsibility for their debts, they wouldn’t be sub-prime. So if you offer a bunch of money to the most irresponsible among us, what would you expect? I would expect them to spend it irresponsibly and not worry about paying it back. That is their history, is it logical to expect anything different from these people? In my opinion, it shouldn’t have taken a rocket scientist to see this sub-prime experiment was going to end badly.
That being said, when will people start being responsible for their actions? Has our entire culture become based on having victim status and not being responsible? These borrowers should not be bailed out by any government program as it would just create more dependence. These fools who paid too much and can’t pay it back need to lose their homes, lose all their assets, and file for bankruptcy. Tough $hit. They may live their lives being irresponsible, but it doesn’t mean the responsible among us should pay for that. This is one of those instances where they will be made to take responsibility. It will feel like they are getting their noses rubbed in it, but that is what they deserve.
However, the lenders are also responsible in this matter. I have a dim view of the lending industry, particularly of credit cards. Consumer debt lenders are akin to drug dealers in my mind. They serve no function in our society other than to leach off people by taking advantage of their inability to save money. But I digress, at least mortgage lenders provide a service because without them most people would be dead by the time they saved enough money to buy a home for cash; however, when they start handing out HELOC’s for consumption, they are as bad as the credit card / drug dealers preying on people’s reckless irresponsibility. Once mortgage lenders crossed that line, they ceased to be serving the needs of homebuyers and instead began serving the wants of the credit addicted: Shame on them.
Of course, none of this would have happened without the enablers at the Federal Reserve and on Wall Street. Greenspan lowered rates and then told borrowers to take out adjustable rate mortgages. As one might suspect, he did this so his fellow bankers would not be stuck with low-interest loans for 30 years, but he gave the world of homebuyers the “green light” for taking on high risk loans. Then Wall Street investors flooded with liquidity from cheap money from home and overseas started chasing returns. These high-interest sub-prime loans looked attractive, and as long as house prices went up and nobody defaulted, everything was fine. Who do you blame for that situation? The bank of Japan for creating the carry trade? The federal reserve for lowering rates to avoid a recession? Investors chasing high yields? I don’t know. That one is too big for me to ferret out a culprit.
In my opinion, the borrowers are certainly at fault; if for no other reason than they signed the papers and took the money. The lenders are also at fault because they should have known better than to give sub-prime borrowers loans they could not afford. Lenders simply cannot abdicate responsibility in this matter for financial, legal and moral reasons. The Federal Reserve and Wall Street investors are also at fault for creating the situation and enabling this to occur. In the end, all the responsible parties will be ruined: borrowers will lose their houses and go bankrupt, lenders like New Century will go out of business and/or lose billions, Wall Street investors will be sharing in those losses with the lenders, and Alan Greenspan will be remembered by history as the architect of the largest, most painful financial bubble in history.