James Saft

The great bad news of housing reform

Feb 15, 2011 12:58 UTC

The reform of U.S. housing finance proposed by President Obama will drive the price of mortgages higher and be a disaster for house prices, construction and the real estate industry.

In other words, in helping to kill the illusion that a whole nation can grow rich by living in ever more expensive houses, it will be a very good thing.

The U.S. released a range of proposals for scaling back government involvement in housing last week, all of which are aimed at transforming a mortgage market in which 92 percent of new loans currently carry a government guarantee.

In addition a budget proposal from the Obama administration on Monday included a call to cut across the board by 30 percent a range of tax exclusions for better off Americans, including the mortgage interest deduction so long considered sacrosanct.

The proposal for housing finance reform from the U.S. Treasury Department includes three scenarios for debate, all of which include the gradual winding down over a period of years of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mae, the government sponsored mortgage companies which had to be taken into public conservator ship as losses mounted.

UK austerity vs U.S. muddle

Jan 27, 2011 19:39 UTC

The trans-Atlantic economic contrast is shaping up as pitting British austerity against, not U.S. investment, but a do-little American muddle.

President Obama’s State of the Union Address offered him the opportunity to hold up a beacon of policy that invests for the future while taking credible steps to control future deficits.

Speaking not long after Britain, in the process of making severe cuts in spending, reported a shrinking economy in the fourth quarter of 2010, Obama instead delivered a vague mix of un-costed investments and symbolic cuts in discretionary spending.