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Rebuilding a House of Cards

Many of us have done it.  We’ve gathered a few decks of cards, built it up as high as we could, then watched it fall to the ground.  Of course, we would then re-build just a little higher only to have it also collapse due to its unsupportable architecture.  The only difference being that the second, larger card house, made for a much larger mess when it collapsed.

In 2009, the government is rebuilding the poorly-supported house-of-cards that caused the current recession, and of course, building it bigger.

By over-extending loans to those that could not afford them at housing prices that were unrealistic, the government put the entire economy at-risk.  In order to even come close to servicing the risky loans the government regulators forced upon bank, they had to re-package them into complicated mortgage-backed securities.

These risky loans actually only achieved one thing – creating a bubble in the housing market.  The prices of houses became artificially inflated due to unsupportable demand.  When all those loans defaulted, the financial institutions that held the notes also collapsed.  Then, a correction started to occur.  A naturally-occurring oscillation in the market, but the government could not let that happen.  Bring on… bubble part 2: going for broke.

In a post on Hot Air we see that in August, we watched as sales of existing homes drop by 2.7%.  Experts were expecting an increase.  Due to the fact that 30% of all home sales this year were by first-time home buyers, the National Association of Realtors has begun a campaign designed to influence congress to put more taxpayer subsidies into the housing market.  They correctly believe that once the $8,000-$15,000 tax credit disappears, so will the buyers.  But by stopping it, they are only delaying and magnifying the inevitable – the true correction of the market.  Those subsidies basically inflate the market by the value of the subsidy.  When the subsidy goes, those houses suddenly correct to their actual value – the government creates another wave of people who will be upside-down in their mortgages.

We can already see what happens when the government issues its short-term subsidy/stimulus programs.  Cash for clunkers artificially increased durable goods manufacturing in July.  August tells an entirely different story.  The manufacturing sector is no correcting longer and deeper than it might have if the government had just stayed out.  The 2.4% reduction in durable goods orders is right after the 4.8% increase due to the governments car program.

The FDIC is already holding dangerously small reserves and is considering borrowing from taxpayers to survive the bank bailouts that are already occurring.  The new round of defaults that are incoming will force that action.  More liquidity will be needed in the economy, more money will get “created”, and inflation will result.

In short, we have more vulnerable home owners with upside-down mortgages, a declining manufacturing sector, rising unemployment, an FDIC teetering on the brink, and the knowledge that at some point the subsidies must end or hyper-inflation will take hold.

If we put all of this together, it’s easy to see that we are rebuilding the same house of cards that got us here.  This time we’ve decided to build it higher, in the middle of a storm, with flimsy cards.  Prepare to pick-up the mess.

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