December 16, 2007

Couldn’t Help But Notice (121607)

“Waste Ted” Stevens’s polling data is disastrous for an incumbent, showing that he either should have resigned, which I advocated two years ago, or spared everyone the spectacle of another Senate run. Is it too late for the GOP to get someone who isn’t so obviously corrupt? Alaska Congressman Don Young appears to have the same problem.

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Mortgage fraud is a two-way street, which people who are knee-jerk supporting John Conyers’s bankruptcy rewrite ought to consider (link requires paid subscription):

The larger problem with this and many of the other subprime bailout plans is that they conceive of every troubled borrower as a victim. No doubt some borrowers were coaxed to sign loans they didn’t understand. But a Treasury report due out next month suggests that the fraud often works the other way around.

One indisputable fact is that mortgage fraud skyrocketed during the Federal Reserve’s easy-credit era. When financial institutions see potentially criminal activity in customer transactions, they are required to send a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) to the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). From 2000 to 2006, SARs related to mortgage fraud increased by almost 700%.

SARs and resulting federal investigations are often aimed at “frauds for profit,” in which the goal is typically to take cash out of a closing. Often orchestrated by unscrupulous mortgage professionals, these scams are frequently the subject of media coverage. However, a new report soon to be released by FinCEN shows that borrowers are almost as likely to be implicated in such cases as the crooked brokers so frequently profiled in the press.

Arnold Kling at TCS Daily definitely has an opinion:

Over the past few years, the housing market became riddled with bogus lenders funneling mortgage money to bogus owners of houses with bogus prices. Attempting to prop up this phony baloney is a pointless exercise. What the housing market needs in order to get back to normal is a strong dose of reality.

Before I’m convinced, I’d like to see the percentage of mortgages, and of subprime mortgages, involved in the shadiness described. If it’s a ridiculously small, as was shown to be case with bankrupcty fraud (not that it prevented that mistaken legislation from passing), then we’re wasting our time talking about it. But I suspect that it’s not.

I believe some kind of relief might make sense for people who are upside-down on their mortgages (owing more than the house is worth). But the excerpted info at least suggests that some borrowers currently claiming ignorance are trying to play the system again. If Conyers gets what he wants, a lot of them will get away with it.

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The breathtaking arrogance of University of Georgia prof David Hazinski reminds us why circulation at papers like the Atlanta Journal Constitution, where his column appears, has dived 18.6% in the past 2-1/2 years:

Citizen journalism allows them to involve audiences, and it is a free source of information and video. But it is also ripe for abuse.

….. Citizen reports can be a valuable addition to news and information flow with some protections:
• Major news organizations must create standards to substantiate citizen-contributed information and video, and ensure its accuracy and authenticity.
• They should clarify and reinforce their own standards and work through trade organizations to enforce national standards so they have real meaning.
• Journalism schools such as mine at the University of Georgia should create mini-courses to certify citizen journalists in proper ethics and procedures, much as volunteer teachers, paramedics and sheriff’s auxiliaries are trained and certified.

Hazinski appears to the be one who needs these “protections.” Instituting them may be the only way he can assure himself of a job.

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Late addition: Yes, I am aware that former District Judge and US Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork has endorsed Mitt Romney. I’ll have more to say on this, but it will have to wait until Monday, because it needs to be integrated with what Mitt Romney has said and done, up to and including his Meet the Press interview this morning.

In the meantime, if anyone can name another former Circuit Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals who has formally endorsed a presidential candidate, I’d like to find out about it in a comment or e-mail.

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1 Comment

  1. There are many elements of the idea of a mortgage bailout that politicians are avoiding discussing. How many of these same politicians previously derided the mortgage industry for not providing loans to minorities with poor credit histories?

    This bailout will have one thing in common with bankruptcies, the end results will be the responsible will be charged for the decisions made by the irresponsible.

    Comment by largebill — December 16, 2007 @ 7:12 pm

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