The greatest economic calamity of contemporary time occurred in 2008. While there were complex issues behind the economic meltdown, main culprit was an overvalued housing market that became a bubble. When housing valuations began to fall, the bubble popped, the catalyst for the overall economic meltdown.
The housing bubble did not occur by chance or natural economic activity. The fuel that fed this fire included:
- Irresponsible Federal Reserve monetary policy that left interest rates too low for too long. This not only helped promote cheaper mortgages, but also cajoled investors into investing in mortgage-backed securities, seeking yield in very products.
- Inappropriate lending practices were forced on commercial banks by the government in its pursuit of a social agenda, which included the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977. Through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government forced banks to lower lending standards so that individuals who could not afford mortgages received them.
- The government also has an in incestuous relationship with banks. For example, it created legislation enabling commercial banks to become involved with very risky financial products that risked systemic damage to the economy; i.e. repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act late in the Clinton administration, In addition, the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 allowed banks to become involved in the ultra-high-risk derivatives market.
Most economists agree that actions of the Fed, government legislation and banker greed were responsible for creating the housing bubble and subsequent banking crisis. Significant lip-service was offered by politicians for corrective action, including the massive Dodd-Frank legislation of 2010. However, this legislation is causing more problems in the banking system. The crisis was caused by banks supposedly being too big to fail. With Dodd-Frank, the largest banks have gotten bigger. Continue reading