JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The self-described "Geniuses of Wall Street" are being stupid. Again.
In 2007, their stupid schemes and frauds crashed our economy, destroying middle-class jobs, wealth and opportunities. Far from getting punishment, however, these financial scofflaws were bailed out by their Washington enablers — so the moral lesson they learned was clear: Stupid pays!
Sure enough, only a decade later, here they come again! Rather than investing America's capital in real businesses to generate grassroots jobs and shared prosperity, Wall Street is siphoning billions of investment dollars into speculative nonsense — such as high-profit securities "secured" only by rickety bundles of subprime auto loans.
Car dealers, eager to goose up sales, have been hawking new vehicles to lower-income people, offering quick credit approval. Banks — eager to hook more people on monthly car payments — have been approving these subprime car loans without verifying the buyer's ability to pay. Then, a Wall Street bank's investment house buys up thousands of these iffy individual loans, bundles them into multimillion-dollar "debt securities," and sells them to wealthy global speculators. Last year alone, banks sold $26 billion-worth of these explosive bundles of car loans.
This is just another paper-shuffling con game, a repeat of Wall Street's subprime mortgage scam a decade ago. It generates fast, easy money at the start for superrich speculators and greedy banksters — but as more and more low-income buyers are unable to make their car payments, defaults build up and the whole financial bubble pops.
Wasting America's much-needed investment capital on a predatory lending scheme that intentionally puts people in cars they can't afford with loans they can't repay is not only stupid, but immoral... and it's killing our real economy. Why are we letting elite Wall Street loan sharks do this to us?
These same practices of bundling and re-selling were the cause of the 2007 crash in the housing market that led to millions of American families losing their homes. But, 10 years later ... where did all those houses go?
Communities across the country have recently found out that Wall Streeters themselves — from former-Goldman Sachs investment bankers to real estate investment trusts — rushed out to scoop up thousands of those foreclosed properties, usually grabbing them at bargain basement prices when they were auctioned off on courthouse steps in Atlanta, Miami, Phoenix, Dallas, Chicago, Las Vegas and other metro areas with hard-hit working-class suburbs. The investment consortiums have deep, deep pockets and can easily outbid local buyers to take possession of the majority of the single-family homes being sold off in many of those distressed places.
Why are they buying? To turn the homes into rental properties and become the dominant suburban landlord, controlling the local market and constantly jacking up rents. For example, the Wall Street journal found that in Nashville's suburb of Spring Hill, just four of these predatory housing giants own 700 houses — giving this oligopoly of absentee investors ownership of three-fourths of all rental houses in town. One of these bulk buyers is an arm of Blackstone, the world's largest private equity firm, another is an equity outfit that was spun out of the housing speculation department of Goldman Sachs, and another is a billionaire whose investors include the Alaska State oil fund.
Not only do rents jump dramatically when such outfits seize a market, but the Wall Street landlords are intent on imposing "a new way" on the U.S. housing market. They're pushing a cultural shift in which homeownership is no longer part of the American Dream and tenants are taught to accept annual rent increases as the price of having a home.
So, the banksters crash the economy, you lose income and your home, they buy your house at auction, then they rent it to you at an ever-increasing price. The "new way" is the same old story of the rich robbing the rest of us.
To find out more about Jim Hightower, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.