SHILLER: WHY THIS HOUSING BUBBLE IS DIFFERENT: FOR INVESTORS AND HOMEOWNERS

COMBO Title and Securitization Search, Report, Documents, Analysis & Commentary COMBO Title and Securitization Search, Report, Documents, Analysis & Commentary

EDITOR’S NOTE: Shiller, as always, has a penetrating analysis and identifies many factors and variables that enter into “asset bubbles.” But what I find continually frustrating is that everyone is still attempting to force this Wall Street scheme into the rubric of an asset bubble instead of calling it what it is — fraud, and quite probably criminal fraud.

IT keeps getting more difficult to write about the non-existent securitization of credit — but only if you are an economist or politician trying to make sense out of it from a civil point of view. The pieces just don’t fit UNLESS you start with the premise that a culture of criminal fraud permeated our financial community and developed a life of its own. JPMorgan and many others knew that Madoff had not conducted a single trade and quietly withdrew their own funds. They knew it was a PONZI scheme. Any trader on Wall Street knew it was a PONZI scheme because there were no trades at all.

In the days where there were asset bubbles where people went wild thinking that tulips were worth more than houses or the stock market would go up forever, the DEMAND for these ridiculous products forced up the prices far beyond anything sustainable. There was nothing illegal going on — just stupidity. In those days, an operation like Madoff would have been exposed in a flash, giving the somewhat morally challenged players on Wall Street an opportunity to show they were policing themselves.

With Madoff, everyone knew and nobody said a word. The reason was that if the Madoff scheme was any different from the “securitization” scheme, it was a distinction without a difference. An inquiry into PONZI schemes on Wall Street would have ended the game. With the bright light shining on them, and people getting more careful about peeking under the hood and  kicking the tires, the securitization scheme would never have got off the ground. And yet despite a lengthy analysis from a respected member of their community detailing the impossibility of Madoff’s assertions and the absence of trading activity, nobody did a thing.

The reason for the inaction and the complicity in the Madoff PONZI scheme that is being alleged in Court is that Wall Street was working a scheme wherein the demand came not from the public, or a bunch of wild and stupid speculators, but from themselves. In order to work, they had to corner the market, create the illusion of a rising market and then let it fall into the crapper, making a fortune every way the market moved. All they had to do was create instruments that were so dense and complicated that neither the buyer nor the seller knew what they were doing. Pension fund managers would take the word of Moody’s that it was AAA rated and homeowners would take the word of the “Lender” that everything was OK.

The market in MBS and homes was being manipulated on such a wide scale that it was easy to hide in plain sight, after it got really going, and claim plausible deniability. But the truth was that mortgages were being crammed down homeowners’ throats that looked affordable but were impossible to pay and worse, were an outright theft of money from both the borrower and the lender (the pension fund investor who bought mortgage backed securities that as it turns out were not securities, were not mortgage backed, and were not even issued).

In plain language, this was not a bubble. It was not a housing bubble. It was not a debt bubble. It was not an asset bubble. It was fraud. The MBS did not exist and neither did the assets from which they supposedly derived their value. The homes may or may not have existed but the value of the homes at no time exceeded the value reported and used to support the fraud — the moment the borrower signed he or she was screwed and so was the investor. The property was worth a small fraction of the loan that was funded and an even smaller fraction of the amount the investor advanced. THAT is what makes this different and until a few hundred people on Wall Street start serving decades in prison, we are headed quickly for the same result, because the same rules are in place.

Housing Bubbles Are Few and Far Between

By ROBERT J. SHILLER

NY TIMES

WHAT’S the outlook for home prices over the next decade? It’s not easy to tell. We need to confront the basic fact that near the beginning of the 21st century, the market for homes in much of the world suddenly became more speculative than ever.

This enormous housing bubble and burst isn’t comparable to any national or international housing cycle in history. Previous bubbles have been smaller and more regional.

We have to look further afield for parallels. The most useful may be the long trail of booms and crashes in the price of land, particularly of farms, forests and village lots. Those upheavals may give some insights into the present situation, and some guidance for the next decade.

In the 19th century and most of the 20th, speculation in land was a powerful phenomenon. There was little speculative activity around homes, however, which were usually viewed as rapidly depreciating assets whose value was to be found almost entirely in physical buildings, not the land beneath them. Eventually, the buildings were expected to be torn down and replaced, so there was little bubble psychology for housing on any large scale. People generally didn’t think about housing as an investment.

But they knew that land was fixed in quantity and would last forever, and many believed that as the economy grew and more people were born, there would be ever-increasing demand. The speculative imagination could be easily fired by reflecting on the huge population that would consume the food from this land or settle on it in future years.

There have been many highly localized land price bubbles in the United States over the last couple of centuries, although bubbles over large areas have been rather rare. Those with the biggest national impact were in the 19th century, when speculators found opportunities that had been created by government land sales and by shifts in land prices set off by construction of canals and railroads. Stories of fortunes in land speculation captured the imagination, and led to bubbles. (That is typically how bubbles form, by titillating the public imagination.)

Two such land bubbles stand out. The first, in the 1830s, was associated with federal distributions to state banks and the loss of fiscal restraint that had been imposed by the short-lived Second Bank of the United States. People began to think farm prices could never fall. As an article in a publication called The Cultivator said in 1836: “Who ever heard of a man buying and selling a farm at the same or a lessened price? It is so well understood that the seller is to have more than he gave, that it has almost become a settled principle in the purchase of real estate.”

The bubble burst with the Panic of 1837, and was followed by the first great depression in United States history, from 1837 to 1843.

A second bubble, in the 1850s, was encouraged by an 1852 act of Congress making land warrants tradable. It burst with the Panic of 1857. Some historians — notably James L. Huston of Oklahoma State University — say they think that the resulting tensions escalated sectional animosities and helped precipitate the Civil War, which ended the depression.

The entire 20th century appears to have had only one farmland bubble of national significance — it occurred in the 1970s. Its causes were complex, but it seems to have been accompanied by a newly common belief that the human population would soon become excessive. A widely cited Club of Rome report in 1972 predicted famines induced by overpopulation. In any case, that bubble burst after the Federal Reserve clamped down on credit in the United States, effectively producing the recessions of the early 1980s.

So land manias have been rather infrequent, many decades apart. They suggest that the recent housing bubble is a similarly rare event, not to be repeated for many decades.

But, of course, the relevance of this long history isn’t entirely clear. In contrast to the 19th century, when the business cycle proceeded without much constraint, we now have the Fed and an active government housing stabilization policy, both of which mitigate the cycle’s more extreme effects. And now, the Dodd-Frank law has created a Financial Stability Oversight Council, which is supposed to go even further to prevent instability.

Ultimately, bubbles are impossible without extreme public enthusiasm. Opinions about housing seem to change in rather trendy ways, but investor enthusiasm for housing has now been down for more than five years — a decline that started well before the collapse of the housing bubble in 2007.

With Karl Case of Wellesley College, who developed the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices with me, I have been surveying opinions of home buyers in the United States on and off since 1988. We have found a fairly steady downtrend since the early-to-mid-2000s in a number of speculative attitudes. On questionnaires, people are less likely to report that they think of housing as an investment, or to express the view that real estate is the “best investment.”

As an investment, in fact, they are more likely to see housing as risky. Although they still have solid expectations of home price increases over the next 10 years — a median of 5 percent annually, in nominal terms — those expectations have been declining and are not nearly as extravagant as they were before the market peak.

IT will take a while for the housing market to recover fully. Still, many people continue to think of housing as an investment, and so it does seem that we are in danger of encountering another whopper bubble someday. Even so, both the history of land bubbles and the slowness of shifts in public opinion suggest that such bubbles will be fairly rare.

Add the new policy restraints, and a new national housing bubble looks even less likely anytime soon.

Robert J. Shiller is professor of economics and finance at Yale and co-founder and chief economist of MacroMarkets LLC.

7 Responses

  1. Dr. Shiller is not one I’d choose to pick a fight with.

    However, the way he distinguishes between land bubbles and housing bubbles intrigues me.

    As housing-building prices (construction $ / sq foot in real terms) have been declining over the last 30 years, I’d argue that the wild speculative increase in housing prices over the same period has in fact been a ‘land price bubble”. In other words, the house became an increasingly insignificant part of the total price. Food for thought.

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  3. One thing that has bugged me from the start is why, with all the evidence and proof of fraud, hasn’t any of the pretender lenders of banksters been charged and convicted of any crimes.
    How do they keep right on wheeling and dealing, lying and stealing with impunity, just as though they were all as innocent as newborn babes?
    The answer was right in front of us all along.
    You have to understand how the laws of commerce work, that the banks are corporations, fictional entities with different rules from the real world. It becomes what is known as a “Straw man”
    something the real crooks can hide behind. They control this straw man. this makes the executives that run the banks immune from the law.
    I’m still learning about how the laws of commerce work, but it’s a thief’s dream.
    Here it is summed up:

    Quote: “Do Not Own The Straw Man; Control The Straw Man. ”
    If you are not the beneficiary/owner of the straw man you are not liable for his debts or obligations. If you are in control, you have the highest lien hold interest on the straw man; you must be paid before anyone else collects from the straw man, and you cannot go to jail for his misdoing. ”

    “A look at the structure of the straw man entity shows the ownership/control relationship, and which position it is best to hold.”

    ” Prior to the redemption process [redemption is a term used among freedom loving people to describe the process of regaining control of your straw man], the man is considered both a beneficiary in the relationship and surety for the straw man. After redemption, the man is no longer a beneficiary, and is no longer surety. After redemption, the man is the controller and creditor with the highest lien hold interest in the straw man.
    The man is now in an aggregate relationship with the straw man. He does not own the straw man but he controls the straw man by the primary lien hold interest.”

    “In this country, the power was granted to government by the people. Power is granted to the government by the people individually – to create States, and by the people as a whole to create the National government. Once the people decided individually to create States, they can only change the policy or law of the State as people collectively. That is because they have agreed to become part of the public. They are one person in a larger body of people that act collectively.”

    “The people are in the State and National government at that same time. The public government is an artificial entity. The government is owned and controlled by the same people. So the government is a sole organization, not an aggregate organization. As long as a man is dealing publicly, he is in a sole relationship with the public. The straw man, being artificial, lives in the artificial place called the public. At the same time as people are acting collectively in the larger body of people called the State and National government, they maintain their ability to act individually on a private basis. The people did not give up the rights they did not delegate to the government – they retained those rights. Any man can contract privately as they see fit and government cannot interfere with the private contracts of men. The straw man lives in the public side of government. He is part of the public government, and functions under the laws of the public. This is necessary and proper because the creator of an entity has the right to control it.”

    “Since the government created the straw man, it is only right that the straw man live under the rules of it’s creator. But once the straw man has been redeemed, the government is no longer in control of the straw man. He is now controlled by the man using his right to private contracts.”

    “The man has left the public as a beneficiary in sole relationship to the straw man to live privately as creditor in an aggregate relationship with the straw man. As far as this relationship is concerned, the straw man is privately controlled. The straw man still exists as a public entity because that is the only world in which he has reality. His relationship with the man is private. The relationship with the man being is controlling because the man has a higher priority lien on the straw man than the government. ”

    “Now that we understand who the straw man is, it is appropriate to ask who benefits from the creation of the straw man?
    We will see that the straw man benefits the creator (the government), any company that uses it and you.”

    Check your own birth certificate or your driver’s license and you will see that on all of these your name is in all capitals, indicating that this is the name of a straw man or corporation.
    “Meet Your Straw Man: Your straw man (Strawman) is an artificial person created by law at the of your birth, the inscription of an ALL-CAPITAL LETTERS NAME on your birth certificate/document, which is a document of title and a negotiable instrument. Your lawful, Christian name of birthright was replaced with a legal, corporate name of deceit and fraud. Your name in upper and lower case letters (Jane Mary Doe) has been answering when the legal person, your name in ALL-CAPTIAL LETTERS (JANE MARY DOE), is addressed, and therefore the two have been recognized as being one and the same. When, you Jane Mary Doe, the lawful being distinguish yourself as another party than the legal person, the two will be separated.

    Legally, since your birth your artificial person, has been considered a slave or indentured servant to the various federal, provincial and municipal governments via your STATE-issued, STATE-created birth certificate in the name of your all-caps person. Your birth certificate was issued so that the issuer could claim “exclusive” title to the legal person created. This was further compounded when you voluntarily obtained a driver’s license and a SSN (Social Security Number). The state even owns your personal and private life through your STATE-issued marriage license/certificate issued in the all-caps names. You have had no rights in birth, marriage, nor will you have them even in death unless you re-capture your straw man. (The names on tombstones in cemeteries are in all-caps.) The STATE holds the title to your legal person it created via your birth certificate, until Jane Mary Doe, the rightful owner, the holder in due course of the instrument, that is yourself, reclaims/redeems it.”
    Confusing, yes and hard to understand, but this is only the beginning.
    The bankersters can’t be charged with anything because, THEY didn’t actually commit the crime, leaving them free and clear, according to the laws of commerce.
    And our courts are just that, courts of commerce, under maritime law.
    It’s why there have only been fines and penalties but no criminal charges filed.
    It’s a thief’s dream set up.

  4. Debi , you are correct .
    Point 2= As long as Shiller , Corelogic u.a. have only one price line , there is nothing true. If you want a true Home price , than you have to split between Foreclosure and regular sales price and you need the Appraisal price not the AVM price .
    It is easy to put all Homes in one bucket , but it is a lot of work to do a second priceline. If my Neighbours home was only $ 600 , why has my Home the same price ?

  5. Madoffs claims were believable ,, promising 1% a month … I know of an investment that pays (gross) 4% a month and nets well over 3% after employee costs and taxes ,, the only trouble is that it is in a foreign country and it requires a good deal of money to get started in and it involves actual work not just typing at a computer terminal .. but it is real and it involves growing chickens under contract for a beer/food company in a country with “land reform” meaning that they must deal with the local farmers..

    What isn’t believable is that in this era of computerization that investment houses would allow naked shorts to execute or that you could have an entire industry that didn’t know that securitized MBS’s weren’t a time bomb. What is truly bizarre is that we know of and allow GS to frontrun everyone using their order entry network ..

  6. Get RID of the word bubble- its not a bubble its fraud. Its deceit. Its criminal and to explain it any other way is NOT truth full. Its lying to the public pure and simple! The repeated attempts to cover for everyone is getting sickening and quite honestly disrespectful. Even though I’m blonde- I’m not a bubble headed bleach blonde. That is a good way to use the word bubble—not for explaining the hugest fraud upon America in history. That, is NOT a bubble. Debi

  7. ASF has kicked off their conference in Florida yesterday…. USA stands for United Securitizations of America that can destroy the country, people and economy.

    The Largest Securitization Conference in the World
    Conference highlights will include:

    * Networking with securitization market professionals from all asset classes and product sectors
    * Strong participation by regulators, policymakers and thought leaders
    * Up-to-the-minute information on the latest happenings in the securitization arena
    * Cutting-edge substantive sessions designed by industry experts
    * Discounted ASF member registration fees and supporter packages
    * New, convenient location

    http://www.americansecuritization.com/story.aspx?id=4152

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