November 8, 2011
Of the 55-million families with mortgages, 10.4-million of them “are sliding toward failure and foreclosure”—a tragedy that will depress the U.S. housing market for years to come, a result of too many houses for sale and too few buyers.
That’s the blunt conclusion of distinguished economics journalist William Greider, to be published in an article in the November 14th issue of The Nation magazine.
America’s “Economic recovery will have to wait until that surplus (excess houses) is gone, because the housing sector has always led the way out of recession,” Greider says. “The more housing supply exceeds demand, the more prices fall. The more prices fall, the more families get sucked into the deep muddy. The vicious cycle is known in the industry as the death spiral. So far, there’s no end in sight.”
Greider says the solution is to forgive the debtors: “Write down the principal they owe on their mortgage to match the current market value of their home, so they will no longer be underwater. Refinance the loan with a reduced interest rate, so the monthly payment is at a level that the struggling homeowner can handle.”
Forgiving the debtors is the right thing to do, Greider continues, “because the bankers have already been forgiven. The largest banks were in effect relieved of any guilt for their crimes of systemic fraud or for causing the financial breakdown—when the government bailed them out, no questions asked.”
Far from a show of gratitude, Greider notes the response of the banks has been ugly. “Right now, these trillion-dollar institutions are methodically harvesting the last possible pound of flesh from millions of homeowners before kicking these failing debtors out of their homes—the story known as the ‘foreclosure crisis.’”
The largest and most powerful banks are standing in the way of the solution and the Obama administration “is standing with them,” Greider adds, “because bankers and other creditors would have to take a big hit if they were forced to write down the debt owed by borrowers. The banks would have to report reduced capital and their revenue would decline if homeowners were allowed to make smaller monthly payments.”