Defeating Homeowners: A Pyrrhic Victory for the Bankers

Ann Pettifor. Huffington Post. May 2nd, 2009

In my last post, I argued that the United States is now a bank-owned state. As if to prove my point, the banks used their power over 12 Democratic members of the Senate to defeat Senator Durbin’s “Helping Families Save Their Homes in Bankruptcy” amendment. And they financed the lobbying of taxpayer representatives with some of the billions of bail-out dollars provided by – taxpayers.

This was a defeat for American democracy. It represented a failure of senators to represent their constituents, honor the constitution and ‘establish justice, insure domestic tranquility and promote the general welfare of the American people. But while it was a defeat for democracy, it was a Pyrrhic victory for the bankers. One more such victory over Congress and the White House, and the bankers will be facing ruin.

Why? Property makes up most of the collateral backing up toxic assets owned by bankers. The upward spiral of foreclosures places downward pressure on property prices – the banks’ collateral. With falling collateral values, bank debts rise and become unpayable – forcing even more financial institutions into bankruptcy.

American homeowners – both those facing foreclosure and their neighbors – need a floor to be placed under falling house prices, for obvious reasons. Realty companies need a floor to be placed under falling house prices. The economy needs a floor to be placed under falling house prices. Above all bankers need a floor to be placed under their most important collateral – house prices.

The market will not stop house prices falling. So government has to intervene. Not just to save the homeowners, but also to save banks, because the banking system is still at risk of systemic failure.

The best way to protect the banks is via the route proposed by Senator Durbin. By managing bankruptcy law in such a way as to keep homeowners from forced sales of their homes, or from defaulting on their mortgages. In other words, by using bankruptcy law to place a floor under falling house prices.

Be sure, this route will cost American taxpayers a lot less than another bailout of the banks.

The bankers and their lobbyists on the Hill just did not get this. They may be voraciously greedy and anti-democratic, but, ironically, they are not pursuing their own best interests. By defeating Senator Durbin’s amendment, they are voting for more foreclosures, more bankruptcies and more bank failures.

In other words, they are like turkeys voting for Thanksgiving.

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4 comments to Defeating Homeowners: A Pyrrhic Victory for the Bankers

  • Fisco Inferno

    Interesting view, but misses a key point – the Government cannot in the end prevent house prices from falling either. Perhaps slow

    their decline at best. It cannot even keep interest rates from rising, as we’re seeing now. And it most certainly cannot do both,

    tautologically.
    The bankers are far more likely to understand this than the credulous political agents managing the taxpayer’s wealth.

    Perfectly rational to do what the bankers are doing…playing for time, funnel as much (personal) money as possible into Swiss/Singaporean bank

    accounts before the (now Govt-sponsored) ponzi collapses.

  • Alan Smith

    Dear Ann,
    Reading your post, makes me so angry ,depressed & feeling hopless in the face of the bankers & politians – as

    there seems little that the general populace can do.I have never had a good opinion of politians , but recent years has eroded that opinion even

    more.

  • the.Duke.of.URL

    Hi Ann,

    I am not surprised by this, sadly. Paulson’s and Geithner’s plan was bank oriented and did nothing for job creation.

    If it didn’t hurt the average person so much, I would be extremely pleased to see the bankers go bust.

    A similar myopia afflicted the rich

    during the Roosevelt administration in the ’30s. They even attempted a military putsch, which failed because the general they thought they had in

    their pocket told a certain Congressional committee of their plan to oust Roosevelt. He named names. He was Smedley Butler. He hated Roosevelt,

    but loved democracy more.

    Democracy is down but hopefully not out.

  • Ann,

    Thank you for you persistence and dilligence in following this. I was so outraged I wrote to my

    representatives. The senators from my state were not among the 12 Democratic Members. I’m extremely angry, especially when I listen to what Simon

    Johnson has to say.

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