Housing Crisis Continues Unabated

ΩΩI left a comment at the NYT about their most recent housing article and got selected by the editors as a highlight.  Whoopee.  There is a rising tide to push for more inflation via government printing more money and buying its own debt as it runs up trillions in debt.  Way back in the Ice Ages, I was alarmed when our national debt was around $10 trillion, actually, when it was ONE trillion, I was worried!  Now, we add a trillion+ a year and seem to want more, more and more of this.  And magically, interest rates are near zero!  But Japan shows us that ZIRP rates are not a blessing but a curse but Weimar Germany shows even more clearly that printing money to escape debt is a catastrophe..

Real Estate’s Gold Rush Seems Gone for Good – NYTimes.com

“There is no iron law that real estate must appreciate,” said Stan Humphries, chief economist for the real estate site Zillow. “All those theories advanced during the boom about why housing is special — that more people are choosing to spend more on housing, that more people are moving to the coasts, that we were running out of usable land — didn’t hold up.”


Instead, Mr. Humphries and other economists say, housing values will only keep up with inflation. A home will return the money an owner puts in each month, but will not multiply the investment.


Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, estimates that it will take 20 years to recoup the $6 trillion of housing wealth that has been lost since 2005. After adjusting for inflation, values will never catch up.


“People shouldn’t look at a home as a way to make money because it won’t,” Mr. Baker said.


ΩΩHere is my comment which was highlighted:  Housing bubbles are really credit bubbles. Since people peddling debts love to push it in the housing sector since this is ‘hard goods’, if there is some form of credit creation within the banks like with the recent Japanese carry trade, these purchases of cheap Japanese debts would be re-lent to the housing market which pays a much higher interest rate return and the banks would then reap a handsome profit off of the differential.


ΩΩThe Japanese carry trade is now dead due to the US and Europe going to the exact same depression ‘ZIRP’ (zero interest rate program) as Japan! So the banks no longer make money borrowing from the Bank of Japan and lending to US or European homeowners.


ΩΩHousing should always be viewed as a way to SAVE money, not profit from rising value. That is, the housing should be cheap enough to buy on a 20% down/20 year mortgage which you buy into when around 25-30 years of age and pay off by 45-55 years of age. Then, you get to live ‘rent free’ for another 10-20 years and build that retirement nest egg!


ΩΩThis older form of saving money has been destroyed by the credit bubble. Instead of keeping housing reasonable in price, everyone fell for the 0%/30+ year mortgage which meant ‘renting’ from the bankers for one’s entire working life and the only escape from this financial hole would be to pray the housing market would go up and up and up despite these huge debts! Now, people are trapped in life-sucking debts for their entire working lives!


ΩΩI followed the older model and paid off my debts by age 50 and have been living in a debt-free house since 2000. If I choose to sell my property when I am too old to live in a larger place and need to move into a more appropriate place, I will reap a 100% profit from it. It is still ‘money in the bank’. If I can’t sell it, at least it is debt-free so I don’t have to pay some banker for permission to sleep in my own home! If our nation reverts to the more virtuous way of planning one’s life, we will see some very significant benefits way down the road, benefits that will save our grandchildren much grief.


ΩΩIt looks like a number of readers agree with me which is pleasant.  There is a huge growing rift in our country between people who were cautious and careful and who avoided debts as much as possible and paid down debts honestly and the parts of our population who view debt as this magical money machine that lets them spend like fiends while not earning enough to pay anything off in any realistic fashion.  The vast majority of people are in the middle: deep enough in debt to barely see daylight from the well they are in and wishing to climb out somehow using cheaper interest rates but unable to do this due to being too much in debt with not nearly enough assets to bankroll a rollover of these higher interest loans.


ΩΩOf course, the most noxious and profitable loans held by bankers is the insidious and easy to get credit card loans.  These explosive loans are peddled at very low rates but shoot up rapidly if people dare to use the credit lines being extended.  That is, the more you borrow, the higher the rates climb until they are stratospheric.  Universally, since the time of Jesus and even before, interest rates over 12% were considered rank usury.  All governments since the beginning of penny ante lending in the very ancient city of Ur 5,000 years ago, have seen the danger of letting usury run out of control.  So there are many cultural, religious and legal barriers to charging very high interest rates on loans.


ΩΩThe US has been in this very queer situation whereby around a quarter of our lending is very usurious while housing was relatively cheap as an exchange for IOU promises.  Even as interest rates charged by the central bankers drop to nearly zero percent, the usurious rates at the credit card end only go up and up.  Not to mention insidious and frequent fees, charges and deductions that eat up incomes rapidly.  The  most insidious part of all of this is, credit cards are infinite.


ΩΩNow, I keep talking about infinity, it is a hyper-important topic.  All humans want infinity.  Infinity is fatal.  But the sense of greed that is part of our makeup blinds us to this danger.  Since credit card companies come in line behind most other creditors in a bankruptcy, they are not covered by usury laws but can be total outlaws in the lending world.  I remember when rates for housing were 9% and credit cards was set at 22%, tops.  This was considered outrageous back in 1978.  But the spread was much smaller than today’s spread where mortgages go for 4.5% while many lines of credit which are open ended and the monthly charges barely pay off any principal, are running at over 30% if you max out your credit lines.


ΩΩI like to verify what I write about so I googled ‘Credit Card Act’ which passed under the Democrats recently.  Up pops an article posted by the Washington Post a few minutes ago:  Last phase of credit card reform law in place, taking aim at penalty fees

The final phase restricts how much card issuers can charge in penalty fees compared with the amount of the violation. For example, if you are late paying a credit card bill with a $10 minimum payment, the penalty charge cannot be more than $10. In addition, new rules governing gift cards also took effect Sunday that require them to be honored for at least five years and allow only one fee per month.


ΩΩA general rule of thumb is, anytime there is any reforms in banking, the profit centers for bankers collapse and things get seemingly worse.  This is because the aim of the bankers is to increase debts and generate more loans!  Anything stopping this is pure poison for them.


ΩΩAll of these reforms are very necessary but they also mean no more credit lines for dubious consumers.  I remember when it was very hard to get a credit card!  I carried an American Express card for quite a while before the other credit companies courted me.  Then, I could negotiate a good deal from them due to my good payment record.  But today, these credit lines were treated as honey traps to lure in the unwary and then hammer them to death with fees and sudden hikes in interest rates.  Paying always on time has nothing to do with rising rates!


ΩΩIt is how much credit you tap: if you tap 50% of your credit line, you are courting danger.  If you go to the limit and are stuck with paying the minimum amount but can’t increase the credit owed, you will be hammered with very high interest rates.  For 10 years, most Americans dealt with this by running up credit debts and then when reaching the upper limit, would refinance their homes and pile this debt onto the property they need to live in so they became renters instead of homeowners.


ΩΩThe banks owned the homes and gave more credit lines with many strings attached and like drug addicts or alcoholics, the homeowners would run up more debts to fill this financial void.  This was laughably easy thanks to the Japanese carry trade.  Today, the NY Fed released an interesting report about consumer and mortgage debts with great graphs and charts:newyorkfed.org/Household Credit District Report_Q22010

The number of open credit accounts continued to decline, although at a somewhat slower rate, during the quarter. About 272 million credit accounts were closed during the four quarters that ended June 30, while 161 million accounts were opened. The number of credit account inquiries within six months – an indicator of consumer credit demand –ticked up for the first time since 2007Q3. Credit cards have been the primary source of the reductions in accounts over the past two years, and during 2010Q2 the number of open credit card accounts fell from 385 to 381 million. Still, the number of open credit card accounts on June 30 was down 23.2% from their 2008Q2 peak.


For the first time since early 2006, total household delinquency rates declined in 2010Q2. As of June 30, 11.4% of outstanding debt was in some stage of delinquency, compared to 11.9% on March 31, and 11.2% a year ago. Currently about $1.3 trillion of consumer debt is delinquent and $986 billion is seriously delinquent (at least 90 days late or “severely derogatory”). Delinquent balances are now down 2.9% from a year ago, but serious delinquencies are up 3.1%.


ΩΩFunny, the delinquent debts nearly equal our budget deficit.  The nearly 12% delinquency rate is important: the reason why we used to have the conservative formula that banks had to have a 10% reserve on lending was simple: during bad times, it usually is at least 10% bankruptcy default rates so having a 10% cushion is the barest minimum.  Instead, the odious AIG-driven derivatives swap market was supposed to insure these loans so the banks told the regulators, they don’t even need a 0.3% reserve.  This was a massive mistake which was fixed by having our government bankroll all these derivative insurance deals (ie: we own AIG now and paid the bankers 100% on their losses!).


ΩΩOpen credit card accounts dropped by a quarter and this reflects the consumer’s inability to shift these shifty debts onto their homes.  This new ‘live within your means’ culture developing is actually a good thing in the long run: the US runs everything, absolutely everything, in the red.  We can’t do this to infinity or forever.  Now, on to the whining for more inflation which is very much connected to the concept of infinity:


Dean Baker: Whacking the Middle Class

The second reason why the current situation is infuriating is that we know how to get the economy out of this mess. We just need to boost demand. This can be done either with much more government stimulus, more aggressive monetary policy from the Fed, or pushing the dollar down to boost exports….After all, the steps necessary to revitalize the economy could mean some inflation. This would reduce the value of the debt owned by the wealthy. And the wealthy don’t see any reason that they should risk any of their wealth just for the good of the economy.


ΩΩInflation kills everything in its path.  Not just loans.  The US workers used to be organized and protected.  So when the Vietnam War inflation began, they were able to strong arm the owners of businesses and factories into giving them pay raises.  This pushed them all into higher and higher tax brackets and Congress studiously refused to make tax brackets indexed to inflation and this was deliberate: running on cutting taxes was a very powerful business!


ΩΩWell, we began to run government deficits so the tax cutting would abide a while and even one cycle of balancing the budget would lead to massive tax cuts and a flattening of the tax curve so that the very rich paid less and less in taxes while the original surge into higher tax brackets vanished as the working masses were de-unionized, jobs were shipped out of the country and now workers have nearly zero bargaining power in this free trade universe so any and all inflation will hammer the working class mercilessly.


ΩΩAlready, we have had very significant food, fuel and medical inflation in the last two years.  It is itching to go stratospheric.  Lurking just below the horizon is nearly $5 trillion in foreign FOREX holdings that might suddenly take off and fly back to the US if we dare to try hyperinflation as a solution to our debt burdens.  Here is another liberal who wants to waken the Goddess of Infinity and set her free:


Marshall Auerback: The Myth of “Credibility Markets”

Consider the case of a currency: How does one respond to a weaker currency?  The conventional response seems to be, “Raise interest rates and eventually you’ll re-attract the capital because you will re-establish ‘credibility’ with the markets”….The myth that markets, not governments, ultimately determine rates has, of course, been legitimized to some degree by virtue of the fact that our institutional monetary arrangements still reflect archaic gold standard type thinking (whereby a certain amount of gold on hand was required to fund government operations).  But we went off the gold standard decades ago. Still we have laws which mandate that all net government spending is matched $-for-$ by borrowing from the private market. So net spending appears to be “fully funded” (in the erroneous neo-liberal terminology) by the market. But in fact, all that is actually happening is that the Government is coincidentally draining the same amount from reserves as it adds to the banks each day and swapping cash in reserves for government paper.


The resultant bond market drain is there to ensure that the central bank maintains control of its reserve rate.  It has nothing to do with “funding” government operations itself.


ΩΩThe market that is ignored by all the liberals who want money printed and handed out like candy is the international trade markets which the US is the base for all trade in this world.  That is, our paper money is used to back mostly one-way trade with nearly everyone.  The US can cease this and indeed, MUST cease doing this.  But we cannot pretend it will be pretty: it will be very ugly indeed.  We lost most of our production base.  We import most of our goods.  Any money we print will be spend mostly overseas and our automobile culture will suddenly collapse as gas prices go stratospheric and Americans will freeze to death during this global warming period as fuel for heating shoots up in price.


ΩΩThe air conditioner culture of the south will collapse even faster.  For much of the Northeast was built in the European style of city with a viable central core with lots of public transportation coupled with intense services and walkable streets a la NYC, for example.  But nearly the entire south and west were built after 1930 and the invention of air conditioning.  It is incredibly anti-pedestrian and spread out and has very little chance of adapting to a world where OPEC is more interested in selling oil to the Chinese who passed the US in car buying just this year.  There are a billion Chinese and there is no way we can buy a billion cars but there is a possibility the Chinese will end up with more than our 200+ million cars!  Easily!


ΩΩThe gold standard had one major function, one that we ignore at our peril: it prevented trade imbalances!  It forced countries to be protectionist.  It was a warning sign, a guide post, an anchor, a restrictor.  This prevented nations from going insane and running up vast seas of IOUs for imports!  The US, when we hit the Hubbert Oil Peak in 1974, needed to import more and more oil so we threw off the gold standard.  And went on an epic debt-fuelled buying binge.  This is now ending.  We have to be realistic and begin rebuilding our society so it is more functional and less dependent on imports.  Time is running out.


ΩΩIf we go the bankruptcy route, this will be ugly in the extreme.  I know of few people who flourish when bankrupt.  Donald Trump is an exception but then, people who lent to him did this during the recent credit bubble.  And they will lose their shirts like anyone else who trusted this dead beat idiot.  And it is very instructive that he could be a media giant while being a bankrupt creep.  He is an icon for the easy lending craze.  I wish he were in prison.  Along with all the people who pushed for free trade while luring us into many debt honey traps.

sunset borger

side picture begging boneEmail:




P.O. BOX 483

BERLIN, NY 12022

Make checks out to ‘Elaine Supkis’

Click on the Pegasus icon on the right sidebar to donate via Paypal.

sunset borger


Filed under .money matters, Free Trade, gold, Politics

22 responses to “Housing Crisis Continues Unabated

  1. Chorddog

    Thanks Elaine!

    This is a great article.

  2. m. cato

    —– > dr. housing bubble, my budget
    360 . c o m., “housing prices in the
    west can fall another 30 to 50%.”
    Roach, theres no bubble in houses in P.-
    R.C., vs. M. Faber, Chanos, etc. yes
    theres a bubble in C (some house
    prices are up 9x nine times not% in 7 yrs).

  3. Paul S

    Elaine: Just a minor correction: the Fed no longer prints fiat currency 24/7. The new term for what the Fed does is: “quantitative easing”! Got that? It’s a whole new ballgame–NOT.

  4. zip

    the gold standard’s function for preventing trade imbalances: can this be realised by these SDR’s from the IMF? or should it be really physical gold or silver or something else?

  5. melponeme_k

    “The air conditioner culture of the south will collapse even faster. For much of the Northeast was built in the European style of city with a viable central core with lots of public transportation coupled with intense services and walkable streets a la NYC, for example. But nearly the entire south and west were built after 1930 and the invention of air conditioning. It is incredibly anti-pedestrian and spread out and has very little chance of adapting to a world where OPEC is more interested in selling oil to the Chinese who passed the US in car buying just this year.”

    This is actually a modernization of the same problem that led to the civil war…Plantations versus Industrial cities. Landed gentry versus New Money. We really do keep repeating the same circular path. So can we expect another civil war…or did the last one ever really end? From what I’ve seen in my travels South, it didn’t end.

  6. nah

    IrLuVmYhOME… its like totally ego friendly
    i knew the bubble was garbage 2+yrs before it popped… stared at home prices… figured out a historical multiple of minimum wage… and went no-way man its cheaper to rent
    then whala, 3bed2baths are 20%off and the Obama gives me 8grand for my smarts as i see it
    so in the end credit is only worth bullshit collateral up to a point, then its just money

    somebody’s got a beef

  7. nah

    can we video again baby

  8. nah

    IOU Part Two: California To Issue IOUs For Second Year In A Row
    the big government domino effect man… wtf can anyone just print money now… the fed, california, banks… someones going to speculate into the imagination of every big time money printer if taxes dont go up alot
    how long can people produce liens against the public before they loose… especially when everyone is half conning everyone
    big government is a bunch of married heterosexuals

  9. nah

    Some of the believers in Arabia say the mosque is a conspiracy hatched by the Jews to set out a clear and permanent connection between Sept. 11 and Islam
    and the USS Arizona is used to ferment hate against the slant eyed japs… we should build it JUST to alienate the muslims and the jews how bout them apples… the US is bigger than all yalls’ history

  10. nah

    Pakistan Flood Relief, Pakistan Flood Relief
    Dudes are loosing their buffalo man, someones got to do something

  11. PLovering

    Yo Shadrack, you can KYAGB.


  12. JT


    We will meet the Chinese faster than we think. High inflation, stagnant wages and no unions. With Chinese wages rising.

    That is if we can get inflation going. We hope for at least 10% annual inflation.
    They will try dropping money from helicopters in the end.
    To inflation via deflation.

    A lost decade at least.

    Ben´s mentor is Konstantin Bubakles 😉 .

  13. flipspiceland

    “Housing should always be viewed as a way to SAVE money, not profit from rising value..”

    Even that is flawed thinking. A house is neither a way to save money or make money. Buying a house is a long term project to provide a bit or a lot of luxury, for the majority of the people.

    I wonder how many people now “own” their homes without a mortgage, but realize that they are still paying an eternal ‘rent’ to the locals and particklelerly the County and School zone they live in? A house is place to live without a landlord taking shoddy care of it, IF one can afford to do the repairs and maintenance oneself.

    A house is, except for the last few decades, an expense, usually the biggest expense in the budget for the middle class.

    And always will be. Nothing more and nothing less.

    And for many it is also a home that is priceless and worth everything it takes to keep it up.


    ELAINE; What an odd belief! Obviously, you never sold a home or inherited a property with no mortgage on it! Good lord! If you rent, you pay school taxes. I was a landlady for a quite a while. I made money off of this! Then, sold the property and made more money. The sort of homes you are talking about is hovels: even hovels sit on land with value many times which is why peasants were often displaced by lords who converted hovels into grazing land for sheep.

    Anyone who tells me land is not valuable should look at history: many millions of humans have died over the eons, fighting over lands to see who will possess this very, very valuable real estate. A million men died in trenches in rich farmland in Verdun.

  14. Claire Voyant

    Great post, especially in exposing the cracks in our crumbling Western economic system. Though we’re no longer a gold-backed monetary system, one might say that our money is actually oil-backed. As you point out, since reaching peak oil this waste-based system is inevitably collapsing. What will replace it is an open question, but since my personal bent is to envision the future, let’s look at the societal implications.

    As you say, some parts of the country will suffer more than others. Cheap exurban housing and sprawling, car-centric areas will lose much of their remaining value once fuel becomes prohibitive. Say goodbye to those cheap Chinese imported household goods, too … margins won’t support sky-high shipping costs. Probably won’t be able to say goodbye so easily to the Chinese themselves, however, since they’re astutely transitioning to higher-margined essentials like batteries, automobiles, solar and other green energy technologies.

    Our oil-based economy earns profits by destroying the underlying resource. The world’s industries literally burn fuel to produce and move goods. A waste-based economy is backing the dollar, and it’s all coming to an end as peak oil forces deeper drilling and riskier methods to extract those precious barrels of a dwindling reserve.

    Already cracks are showing that will hasten the Fall of the House of Gusher (sorry, couldn’t resist that one). The 6 Gulf Cooperation Council countries hold some 23% of the world’s gas reserves, but power generation needs have outstripped supply to such an extent that Saudi Arabia, Dubai Kuwait and others must now import gas to keep their desert corporate office parks comfortably air conditioned.

    Expect fuel shortages to begin showing up throughout Western economies. Energy observers point out that the price of oil must rise to cover peak oil’s higher extraction costs, but Western economic recession dampens the price it can rise to. Higher extraction costs, plus the expense of inventing a replacement ‘green technology’, mean the current model can’t sustain itself. If industries can’t get sufficient economic leverage on what they produce while transitioning to more sustainable means of production, we can expect shortages in goods, food, cars and clothing, etc. to ripple through the economy.

    The only solution is the one you’ve pointed out — to live within our means, individually and as a society. When oil scarcity comes home, its uses will be more carefully considered. Without easy credit and reduced to cash, what would be the value of a McMansion in a distant suburb? A Hummer? Office parks in the desert? Any other form of capital?

    The true value of all these things would be excess earnings or surplus gained by labor: what people can save in a reasonable period of time – that is, before they die or need to move on. The same principle holds true with finance capital; the size of an economy that is sustainable without crushing deficits is orders of magnitude smaller than current. And this is what you’ve pointed out, and why the politicians and ruling elites are running scared: the system is collapsing, even as they scramble to pump it up. The Emperor has no clothes, and the kids have caught on and are starting to call it out. We need to pull back from the temptingly ‘infinite’ realm of deadly goddesses and their cave of Wealth and Death, to a human scale. The cash value of goods of all kinds simply needs to come into balance with the energy it takes to produce them and the wages it takes to pay for them. Which means acknowledging that oil is not infinite, that debt has a limit, and that the real value is in human and societal capital.

    The ancient Mayans foresaw the end of the Fourth World and the transition to the Fifth as a period of wide-scale suffering. They characterized the Fifth World as one that fosters respect for minerals, plants and the fruits of the earth. With humankind’s penchant for pushing the limits, this respect will evidently not easily won. 12.21.12 may not physically end life on the planet — at least hopefully not so — but surely it marks the end of the world as we’ve known it.

  15. PaulinMtl

    Congrats for your post in NYT and the approval you got. Just getting published in NYT isn’t easy. I posted a couple of times myself and even though I never was an editor’s choice, I did get quite a few accolades from the readers. That’s a feast in itself i.e. my comments are usually a strong critique of the expressed point of views.

    As an example, take today’s David Brooks’ collumn: «A Case of Mental Courage». Usually, Brooks would get over 200 comments before they close it. Today they closed it after only 19 comments. Guess what? I’m sure they had to turn down at least 50% of them.

    I wrote a comment before I realised they had closed it and with low expectation of getting published at all anyway. In any case, it won’t go all to waste. With your permission, I’m published it here for posterity. Thank You

    «THE WAYS OF AN OPERATIVE: Tell 90% of truths and slip in 10% of lies in a duplicitous effort to have them passed as truths. That’s Brooks’ ways.

    «How nice to learn about Fanny Burney’s mental strength and of others. But what has the recognition of the Irak surge by Liberals or others got to do with it? The Irak war is the worst american blunder of all times and the misnomer «surge» didn’t change a thing to this fact. Besides it was Petraeus starting to buy off and bribe the Iraki insurgents that brought the violence down; temporarily. Nothing was won in Irak and it will remain a festering sore for as long as one can see.

    «Being treated with Larry Summers as the embodiment of a mental character example tops it all off. He’s one of the main characters with Robert Rubin for the repeal of the Glass Steagall Act and with his stint at Harvard ending up being busted and chased away, this man shouldn’t be anywhere near an elective office holder – currently economic advisor to Obama – and dropping his name in any complementary way should cover anyone with shame. Not for David Brooks.

    «Oh and an other name of an operative is a misinformer.»


    ELAINE: HAHAHA. Good one. Proud to have you post it here. 🙂

  16. Joseppi

    Here is an unfocused, filled with inaccuracies NYT historical analysis of currencies, trade tariffs and promotion of the strategy of inviting the Chinese to move factories to the US to reemploy American peasants. Elaine will have fun with this one……

  17. emsnews

    It is just endless, isn’t it, Joseppi? Can’t keep up with it all! 🙂

  18. Awesome News blog !! I love it!! keep updating!! There are lot of things to learn Gud Luck!!

  19. Very nice article, thank you.

  20. Pingback: Japan Has Record Trade Deficit Due To High Oil Prices Caused By US Boycott Of Iran | Culture of Life News

  21. hey there and thank you for your information –
    I’ve certainly picked up something new from right here. I did however expertise a few technical points using this site, since I experienced to reload the site a lot of times previous to I could get it to load properly. I had been wondering if your web hosting is OK? Not that I’m complaining, but slow loading instances times will often affect your placement in google and can damage
    your high quality score if advertising and marketing with Adwords.
    Well I am adding this RSS to my email and could
    look out for much more of your respective interesting content.

    Make sure you update this again soon.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s