The sub-prime and overall mortgage carnage is now likely to lead to a financial crisis whose cleanup and bailout costs will make the S&L bailout bill look like spare change. We are only at the beginning of this fallout but, already, several proposals and bills in Congress have been submitted to help millions of sub-prime homeowners on the verge of bankruptcy and foreclosure. The prospect of millions of homeowners thrown homeless on the street is already shaking politicians of every stripe. The relatively modest bailout envisaged by the first bills currently proposed in Congress will mushroom into a much bigger fiscal bailout of homeowners, borrowers and lenders once the garbage of sub-prime, near-prime and pseudo-prime toxic waste spreads around the economy and likely leads to a hard landing recession that will cause a much bigger financial and banking crisis.
Given the fallout and real, social and financial costs of this disaster the political blame game will soon start. So it is important to make sure that the self-serving spin game that accompanied the game of those who happily ignored since last summer the looming housing, mortgage and economic mess will not be repeated again. Powerful political and financial interests will spin their self-serving ideological spin on who is to blame for this mess. Specifically be ready for a cabal of supply side voodoo ideologues – from the Wall Street Journal editorial page (and its invited op-ed writers) to hacks (calling them economists would be an insult to my profession) such as Arthur Laffer, Steve Hanke and other assorted voodoo religion priests – to start spinning a tale blaming government regulation and interference for this disaster that has instead its core in the lack of sensible government regulation, not the existence of such regulation. In the meanwhile powerful financial interests that repeat the mantra – or better the proof-less dogma – of unregulated free markets and do not like any – even sensible – supervision and regulation of the financial system will happily blame government action – rather than their own reckless greed and stupidity – for this disaster while happily demanding and receiving billions in bailout funds from the same government that they so happily disdain. This will be the most appalling form of corporate welfare: privatize the profits in good times and socialize the losses in bad times.