Minor Thoughts from me to you

Archives for Greed (page 1 / 1)

Congrats San Diego, you win by losing Chargers →

The people of San Diego won by losing. Chargers owner Dean Spanos did the corporate equivalent of taking his ball and going home Thursday, bolting for Los Angeles because San Diego residents had balked at building his team a fancy new stadium. Imagine the nerve of those people! Refusing to spend millions for a stadium that, studies have shown, would likely end up costing taxpayers more than what is originally estimated while providing less in return.

For a team owned by a family whose net worth was $2.4 billion as of Thursday, according to Forbes, no less. Yes, billion. With a B.

Emphatically seconded. Sports owners need to fund their own opulent stadiums. And if they don't think it's a good investment, why should taxpayers be expected to pay?

Government Money →

From Daniel Greenfield, at Sultan Knish:

Do you know of any company in America where for a mere few billion, you could become the CEO of a company whose shareholders would be forced to sit back and watch for four years while you run up trillion dollar deficits and parcel out billions to your friends? Without going to jail or being marched out in handcuffs. A company that will allow you to indulge yourself, travel anywhere at company expense, live the good life, and only work when you feel like it. That will legally indemnify you against all shareholder lawsuits, while allowing you to dispose not only of their investments, but of their personal property in any way you see fit.

There is only one such company. It's called the United States Government.

This is gangster government at its best. Politicans can spend billions of dollars to gain control of trillions of dollars. Then they can enrich themselves, their friends, and their friends' friends. And we wonder why our representatives are corrupt? They wouldn't have so many opportunities for corruption if we drastically cut federal spending and took away their goody bags.

Is Income Inequality Unfair? →

From Scott Rasmussen, at Real Clear Politics:

For most Americans, the context is very important. If a CEO gets a huge paycheck after his company received a government bailout, that’s a problem. People who get rich through corporate welfare schemes are seen as suspect. On the other hand, 86 percent believe it’s fair for people who create very successful companies to get very rich.

In other words, it’s not just the income; it’s whether the reward matched the effort. People don’t think it’s a problem that Steve Jobs got rich. After all, he created Apple Computer and the iPad generation. But there was massive outrage about the bonuses paid to AIG executives after that company was propped up by the federal government.

Income inequality isn't unjust unless the income was ill gotten gains. Our goal as a society shouldn't be to stamp out income inequality. It should be to stamp out crony capitalism that allows people to get rich through connections instead of requiring them to get rich through innovation that makes the rest of us richer.

Eating the Seed Corn

I haven't even read this article yet. But, from the description, the immediate commentary that comes to mind is "eating the seed corn".

Corporate-Cash Umbrellas: Too Big?

Many big companies are being too cautious with their cash. Meanwhile, shareholders could use some of it to make it through the recession.

This entry was tagged. Greed

Seeing Greed in San Jose

Last night I said that homebuyers were more likely to be greedy than lenders. I haven't changed my mind yet. Instead, I read a story that convinced me even more.

The New York Times describes a couple who bought "a modest home at the southern end of Silicon Valley". Now they're suing their broker and real estate agent for setting them up with a third loan that they didn't even know they had. They may well have a valid complaint -- from the facts presented in the article, the agent was playing both the lender and the buyer for suckers.

But that's not the part of the story I'm interested in. I'm interested in how much house this couple tried to buy. Here a few facts, hidden throughout the story.

First -- how much did their house cost? This is never directly mentioned in the article. It's buried beneath a photo caption.

Sarai Torralba, 5, riding by the home that her family bought for $595,000 in San Jose, Calif. Prospero and Cirila Torralba borrowed almost $610,000 for it.

Second -- how much does this family make? The article never actually says. I would have thought that a key piece of information. The article does mention the Hernandez family, who only earns "about $4,000 a month", or $48,000 a year. We'll assume that the Torralba's are in a similar situation.

Third -- how were these loans set up?

The first and biggest loan was a pay-option adjustable rate mortgage. The loan allows borrowers to pay less than the interest due, adding the difference onto the balance so more is owed with each passing month. The interest rate on the loans from Mr. Curiel was 10 percent, with a 15 percent upfront fee added to the principal balance. That loan called for borrowers to make interest-only payments and pay off the full amount in two years.

The loan from Mr. Curiel is the one that the owners are suing over. Still, what's with the pay-option adjustable rate mortgage? I'd think that simply considering such a loan for 5-10 minutes would convince me that having the loan get bigger month after month was a really bad idea.

Reading these stories, I'm convinced that these buyers were trying to buy something that they knew they couldn't afford. Rather than having enough of a backbone to say "no" to pushy agents and brokers, they allowed themselves to be talked into obviously bad loan ideas.

Again, lack of resources isn't a truly valid complaint. Internet site after internet site explains what the various loans mean and what the amortization schedules are. Even having a poor command of English isn't really a complaint. After all, you are the person signing on the line. It's your responsibility to find someone that you trust, with a good command of English, to go over the loan terms with you. Otherwise -- don't sign.

Though vowing to fight, Mr. Hernandez said his family’s hopes and goals have been dashed. They came to the United States from Mexico nearly three decades ago. Over the years, he and his wife have worked in agriculture, picking cherries, apples and asparagus. They had three sons here — two have their own families, and one son, 17, still lives with them.

They doubt they will be able to pay for him to go to college, as they had planned.

The Hernandez family was trying to buy a $745,000 house. Whether or not their mortgage was a good one, I'm not sure how you afford college at all with a three-quarter million dollar loan of any sort.

Although an apparently crooked agent was involved, I think greed ultimately did these families in.

Who Was Greedy?

I find the current narrative, about the housing market meltdown, to be extremely disingenuous. Take Barack Obama, for example.

He described this summer's subprime lending crisis as a case study of greed among mortgage lenders and the agencies that provide information about them. ...

Well, that's certainly one way to describe what's happening in the housing market. But I don't think it's very honest. As I've said before, I don't see how giving mortgages to people who are unable to afford them, then going bankrupt when they default on the loan, qualifies as greed.

Instead, I prefer to consider Hanlon's Razor: "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity."

Stupidity, sure. Giving money to people who can't give it back is about as far from greed or theft as a business can possibly get.

However, I'll be happy to accuse home buyers of greed. What would you call it when someone earning $40,000 a year decides to buy a home costing $200,000 or $250,000? Many of the families now defaulting on their loans were looking to get in on a "hot" housing market that had the potential to double or triple the value of houses in the area. They saw cheap money and jumped at the opportunity to get rich.

That's why I'm convinced that this won't do any good:

Mr. Obama of Illinois called for regulatory efforts to increase transparency and accountability among financial companies. Mr. Obama zeroed in on the housing market, proposing tighter federal rules on mortgage fraud and government rating systems for mortgages and credit cards.

"If more Americans were armed with this kind of information before they purchased risky mortgage loans," he said, "the current crisis might not have happened."

If Senator Obama really believes that, he's delusional. We were buried in paperwork when we bought our house. We had to sign sheet after sheet of paper, giving us all of the details about our mortgage. Our Realtor and mortgage banker answered all of our questions, throughout the entire process. Even if they hadn't, website after website offered comprehensive information about every different type of mortgage. Americans had plenty of opportunity to arm themselves with whatever information they needed.

The housing meltdown happened because everyone involved believe that the market would continue to go up forever. Consumers got greedy and banks began taking irresponsible risks thanks to easy money. This "crisis" can't be blamed on any one group and I'll not respect anyone that tries to do so.