Liebowitz: Anatomy of a Train Wreck: Causes of the Mortgage Meltdown
October 13, 2008, 05:27 PM
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Paul Krugman just won the Nobel Prize in economics, but they should have given it to the economist who has been hollering since the 1990s about the government`s mortgages for minorities and the poor policies, Stan J. Liebowitz.

He`s got a new analysis out that`s fairly definitive.

UT Dallas economist Stan J. Liebowitz`s witty report on how "relaxed lending standards" to increase home ownership among minorities and low income whites led to the collapes is now online (1 meg PDF).

Anatomy of a Train Wreck: Causes of the Mortgage Meltdown by Stan J. Liebowitz

PDF Download PDF File (29 pages)Why did the mortgage market melt down so badly? Why were there so many defaults when the economy was not particularly weak? Why were the securities based upon these mortgages not considered anywhere as risky as they actually turned out to be?

This report concludes that, in an attempt to increase home ownership, particularly by minorities and the less affluent, virtually every branch of the government undertook an attack on underwriting standards starting in the early 1990s. Regulators, academic specialists, GSEs, and housing activists universally praised the decline in mortgage-underwriting standards as an �innovation� in mortgage lending. This weakening of underwriting standards succeeded in increasing home ownership and also the price of housing, helping to lead to a housing price bubble. The price bubble, along with relaxed lending standards, allowed speculators to purchase homes without putting their own money at risk.

The recent rise in foreclosures is not related empirically to the distinction between subprime and prime loans since both sustained the same percentage increase of foreclosures and at the same time. Nor is it consistent with the �nasty subprime lender� hypothesis currently considered to be the cause of the mortgage meltdown. Instead, the important factor is the distinction between adjustable-rate and fixed-rate mortgages. This evidence is consistent with speculators turning and running when housing prices stopped rising.

Anatomy of a Train Wreck is included in the forthcoming Independent Institute book, Housing America: Building Out of a Crisis, edited by Randall G. Holcombe and Benjamin Powell.


Stan J. Liebowitz is Research Fellow at The Independent Institute, Ashbel Smith Professor of Economics and Director of the Center for the Analysis of Property Rights and Innovation at the University of Texas at Dallas, and co-author with Stephen Margolis of Winners, Losers, and Microsoft: Competition and Antitrust in High Technology, published by the Independent Institute.
Keep in mind that 15 years ago Peter Brimelow debunked the original report/hoax on discrimination against minorities in mortgage lending that set off this chain reaction catastrophe. See his 1993 Forbes article The Hidden Clue.