U.S. Foreclosure Mitigation: Too Little, Too Late? (Part 1)

By John Kiff*

As U.S. home foreclosure rates rise to levels not seen since the Great Depression, government policy has consistently been too little, too late, and frankly, off target. In this series of posts, I’m going to do a fairly deep dive into the “end game” of the current mortgage crisis. (The “opening” and “middle games” have been well documented elsewhere – e.g., “Money for Nothing“.) In this first post, I’ll give a very broad-brush overview of the three government foreclosure mitigation programs that have been introduced since 2007. Then, I’ll talk about some of the reasons why they have failed (or are likely to fail).

FHASecure (introduced in 2007) and Hope for Homeowners (H4H, 2008) were designed to encourage lenders to write loans off in return for 90 to 97 percent of appraised home values. However, only about 4,000 loans were refinanced under FHASecure before it was closed down at the end of 2008, and less than 1,000 homeowners have applied for H4H short refinancings. These two programs failed largely because they left implementation to under resourced servicers, and placed almost all the writedown burden on the lenders and investors.

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Michele Bachmann and SDRs

By Ranjan X. Roy

Michele Bachmann (R-MN), best known for her views on “re-education camps” and McCarthyism, recently introduced a “resolution that would bar the dollar from being replaced by any foreign currency,” in response to Chinese comments regarding the potential use of SDR’s as a global reserve currency.  When I paused to evaluate the resolution, visions of Freedom Fries danced through my head.

Rather than addressing the vital impact currency reserves and related policy have had on the current crisis and our future prosperity, Bachmann’s “legislation” was an absurd digression rooted in paranoia. Bachmann articulated her fears on the Glenn Beck show:

What that means is that all of the countries of the world would have a single currency. We would give up the dollar as our currency and we would just go with a one world currency. And now for the first time, we’re seeing major countries like China, India, Russia, countries like that, calling for a one world currency and they want this discussion to occur at the G20… Once you lose your economic freedom, you lose your political freedom. And then we are no more, as an exceptional nation, as we always have been. So this is imperative.

Central banks and monetary authorities globally have accumulated more than $6 trillion of currency reserves as of 2007, with 63.9% being held in USD. While the mechanics and history of reserve currencies are complicated, what is certain is the massive increase in USD reserves held by nations like China is a vital issue of economic policy that must be addressed to bring longer-term global prosperity into balance.

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