Numerian's blog

Mortgage Deal Under Discussion - Obama Administration and Big Banks

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Even if the settlement being offered by the Obama administration is accepted, it doesn’t give the banks relief on the securities fraud claims or evasion of back fees for recording mortgages.

Reports have begun to appear in the American business press of a possible settlement among banks and their regulators over the mortgage mess in the U.S. The various players in this settlement are leaking stories to business reporters in order to place on the public square their negotiating positions, which can often serve to define the terms of the discussions taking place in private. For those of our readers who are not Americans, we need to apologize in advance for the convoluted, and you might even say ugly, manner in which policy is made in Washington when so many different players are involved. We’ll try to keep the description of what is going on basic and understandable, but don’t be surprised if you feel like you’ve wandered into an abattoir where sausage is being made. First, let’s go down the list player by player, and see what they want out of a possible settlement.

Libya, Kaddafi, and the Marketing of Dictators

By Numerian
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Nobody knows, which is precisely why leadership everywhere is addled and uncertain how to respond. What they should most fear, however, is someone who connects together the riots in Greece several years ago, the demonstrations in Iceland, and the events throughout the Middle East, with the protests in Wisconsin, and who then draws a picture which makes sense and which everyone can understand.

Driving in from the airport to the center of Tripoli, as you pass Pepsi-Cola Road and approach the old city, you see one billboard after another featuring Mohammar Qaddafi. He has different guises, depending on whether he wishes to be Col. Qaddafi in military uniform, or tribal Qaddafi in flowing robes, or religious Qaddafi in the turban and cloak of an imam. Overlooking the central square is Qaddafi the modernizer of Libya, sporting brownish-yellow sunglasses that might have been stylish in 1969 when Qaddafi first came to power in a military coup, but today give him the appearance of trying too hard to be young.

MERS Leaves the Field

By Numerian
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How the banks could inflict such damage on the country’s home title and mortgage registry system would take another investigation by Congress to determine – assuming Congress was interested.
The Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems company (known as MERS), which has been at the center of legal problems affecting the securitization of home mortgages and foreclosures, has given up one of its principal corporate objectives. It is now instructing its members to cease foreclosing on residential properties in the name of MERS, and to begin immediately to register all assignments of mortgages with local county recorders of deeds. (Image)

The whole purpose of MERS when it was established in 1996 was to by-pass the county recording process, and the billions of dollars of fees that banks and mortgage companies would have had to pay to comply with state and local real estate laws. MERS operated on a legal assumption that it could have its cake and eat it too, by acting as an agent for its member banks in their real estate transactions, but also acting if necessary as a principal in its own name when it came to assigning mortgages and foreclosing on properties.

What You Weren't Told About the Financial Crisis - The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission

By Numerian


The best the Commission can do is say “Alan Greenspan should have done this, and he shouldn’t have done that.” It cannot say that there is something deeply corrupting in the way politicians of both parties think and act in Washington.

The Arc of Justice - The Ibanez Case Ruling

By Numerian posted by Michael Collins


What is beginning to unfold before our eyes is a situation which can only be comprehended with jaw-dropping incredulity.

The Too Big To Fail banks have been waiting with trepidation for a ruling from the Supreme Judicial Court of the State of Massachusetts on the case titled US Bank National Association (as trustee) vs. Antonio Ibanez. They were right to be fearful. The state supreme court has ruled against the banks and upheld a lower court order that nullified foreclosures by US Bancorp and Wells Fargo, on the grounds that neither bank had the legal right under Massachusetts law to foreclose. Today’s ruling has far-reaching consequences for the banks and the housing market in general, as it throws into serious question the legal soundness of millions of mortgages in the US if, as expected, courts in other states come to similar conclusions as the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts.

Delusions of Normalcy 2011 - Dismal Scientists Cheer Up

Could a recession occur in 2011? Under the current state of the US economy and its heavy reliance on federal spending, we could answer this question quite simply if we knew when the US government credit card will reach its limit. At some point it must; the compelling reality of mathematical compounding alone makes it impossible for any country to continue to rack up new principal and interest obligations.

The consensus is in and there is strong agreement: the US economy is on the path to a sustained recovery. 2011 will be a year of surprises on the upside, and 2012 will be even better. Among a list of the top 25 economists surveyed, not one of them predicts a recession in 2011. There is hardly any investment strategist or economist to be found who sees any risks serious enough to derail the US economy. Here is just a sample of the consensus thinking that is to be found in end-of-the year forecasts:

*Economists in universities and on Wall Street have raised their growth projections for next year. Retail sales, industrial production and factory orders are on the upswing, and new claims for unemployment benefits are trending downward. Despite persistently high unemployment, consumer confidence is improving. Large corporations are reporting healthy profits, and the Dow Jones industrial average reached a two-year high this week. – New York Times

A Merry Christmas for the Inheritance Tax

By Numerian
...nothing is more important to the establishment and continuation of a democracy than a rigorous inheritance tax.
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<p>Merry Christmas to All!  If it be more blessed to give than to  receive, what better time than Christmas Day to discuss the Estate Tax.  </p>
<p>You might say to yourself: How dry, how dull – leave me to my eggnog  and on some other day I will look into this subject.  But there is no  better day than Christmas Day to think about what any citizen of a  democracy owes to his or her country, and this is especially true about  the wealthier, and especially the wealthiest, among us. <a href=Image-Mark Fiore

My first Christmas gift to you is my most favorite of all quotes, from that most astute observer of democracy, Alexis de Tocqueville. He was a man who was intimately familiar with the social sclerosis that resulted from aristocracy, and he had a chance to compare it in the 1830s to the newly-invented American democracy. He said the following in Book I of his Democracy in America.

I am surprised that ancient and modern writers have not attributed greater importance to the laws of inheritance and their effect on the progress of human affairs. They are, it is true, civil laws, but they should head the list of all political institutions, for they have an unbelievable influence on the social state of peoples, and political laws are no more than the expression of that state. Moreover, their way of influencing society is both sure and uniform; in some sense they lay hands on each generation before it is born. By their means man is armed with almost supernatural power over the future of his fellows. When the lawgiver has once fixed the law of inheritance, he can rest for centuries; once the impulse has been given to his handiwork, he can take his hand away; the mechanism works by its own power and apparently spontaneously aims at the goal indicated beforehand. If it has been drafted in a certain way, it assembles, concentrates, and piles up property, and soon power too, in the hands of one man; in a sense it makes an aristocracy leap forth from the ground. Guided by other principles and directed towards other goals, its effect is even quicker; it divides, shares, and spreads property and power; then sometimes people get frightened at the speed of its progress; despairing of stopping its motion, men seek at least to put obstacles and difficulties in its way; there is an attempt to balance its action by measures of opposite tendency. But all in vain! It grinds up or smashes everything that stands in its way; with the continual rise and fall of its hammer strokes, everything is reduced to a fine, impalpable dust, and that dust is the foundation for democracy.

Scapegoating Fannie and Freddie - the New Republican Orthodoxy

You have to be blind, dumb, or maliciously misleading to miss the contribution of Wall Street to the housing bubble and the financial crisis.

By Numerian posted by Michael Collins

Yesterday the four Republican members of the 10-member Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission issued their own report on what caused the credit crisis of 2008-2009. They did this because they wanted to put down a “marker” on what they think happened to the markets and the economy, before the whole commission releases its official report next month. Many observers say this unusual move will damage the credibility of the official report, and reflects yet again the bitter partisan struggle that is taking place in Washington between Republicans and Democrats.

This is not a partisan political struggle going on here, at least not for the most part. Enough Democrats on the Commission have spoken up that we see what is really happening. The Democrats who run the Commission are using fact-based arguments and reality-based research to determine what happened during the financial crisis. The Republican minority members are all theologians using a faith-based approach that says government is evil and fundamentally at fault here, the market is all-pure and all-wise, and the “financial industry” is certainly not to blame.

Consumerist Christmas - Can it survive?

By Numerian

It isn’t even important whether you or your family have a Merry or a Happy Christmas – the only important thing is whether corporations have a profitable Christmas. This is the true meaning of Christmas.

The mighty American marketing machine known as Christmas put on a brave front this weekend. Stores across the country opened up earlier than ever – some as early as 2:00 a.m. on Friday morning – and shoppers responded. Some consumers gave up their Thanksgiving Thursday altogether by using that day to stake their position on a sidewalk outside Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Target, or Sears. The rewards were high – those who were first in the store on Black Friday had the best shot at buying at deep, deep discounts. Flat screen HDTVs, which were otherwise priced at $1,000 minimum, were on sale for $300, but only on Black Friday and only to the earliest few into the store. (Image)