Everyone Has to Pay a Price

I am not an economist, so beware, but I do have some thoughts about what the Fed chairman, administration and Congress are desperately trying to do with this stimulus package.

I think their main point is correct: that what we need is to stabilize the mortgage market and help people keep their homes, not a massive stimulus package to benefit big banks, many of which made bad bets. What Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said, and I think is right, is that whatever is done has to be very short-term to help individuals get through the next six months.

When stabilizing the loan market in a crisis like this, everyone who contributed to it has to pay — or “take a haircut,” as they say — in relation to their contribution to the problem. I am told by bankers — who are paying their fair share — that one obstacle to working through this is the “investors" in these sub-prime loans, who bought them for their above-average yields and now don’t want to accept the downside of the higher risk they enjoyed on the upside.

I suspect that many of these “investors” are hedge and equity funds that are accustomed to getting what they want, and are now holding up a process that would “clear” the market in the same way that taking losses across the board back in the early '90s allowed the market eventually to recover — into the boom of the 1990s. Everyone paid something then, and everyone should do the same now — and soon.

If the market can clear because all the problems are disclosed and dealt with, then banks will start lending again, housing prices will start to level out, and we'll find it much easier to deal with the foreclosure problem.

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