Michelle has a clip from CNN that demonstrates the silliness of the mortgage-bailout efforts of the Obama administration. Minta Garcia and her family bought an $800,000 home that they could not afford, using speculative lending as a lever. The value of the house has dropped to $675,000, and now Garcia faces foreclosure. However, the coverage omits a critical piece of the puzzle:
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): School bus driver and mother of two, Minta Garcia got the letter every homeowner dreads, your mortgage is in jeopardy of going into foreclosure.
MINTA GARCIA, DISTRESSED HOMEOWNER: We’re going to be losing the house. We’re going to lose everything.
ACOSTA (on camera): You think you’re going to lose everything?
ACOSTA (voice-over): Her message to the president…
GARCIA: Stop with the foreclosure.
ACOSTA (on camera): Stop the foreclosures?
GARCIA: Yes. Right now, because if people are losing houses, losing jobs, what are we going to do? …
ACOSTA: Like countless other Americans, Garcia admits she and her husband bought more house than they could afford, but she says the lender made the purchase all too easy. Now her mortgage is worth more than her house.
(on camera): How much was the house when you bought it?
GARCIA: Eight hundred.
ACOSTA: Eight hundred thousand dollars?. And how much is the house worth?
GARCIA: Right now, it’s like $675,000 on the market.
I guess the first question I’d ask is what made a bus driver believe she could afford an $800,000 house. Unless she makes six figures and had a hell of a down payment, the figures themselves seem so far out of whack that one has to wonder how it occurred at all. The lenders certainly deserve blame here, too, but no one forced Minta Garcia into that house and that mortgage.
What has happened in too many cases is that homeowners took a speculative risk on their house, either buying a home they couldn’t afford or emptying the equity in their existing home in anticipation of above-inflation value growth. Once the market reinflated the equity, the owners could refinance with better terms on a fixed-rate mortgage and have a payment they could (barely) afford. Unfortunately, this Ponzi scheme imploded when housing at first failed to increase in value and then began to drop.
In other words, the homeowners took a risk based on market appreciation. Those who completed their refinancing before 2007 managed to avoid losses. Others took a risk and lost out. Let’s remember that Garcia’s home value only matters if she tries to sell the property. Lenders do not foreclose just because the valuation drops; they foreclose when borrowers can’t make the payments. Being under water on a mortgage doesn’t mean one can’t make payments as long as the owner bought a home and a mortgage he or she could afford.
Garcia didn’t do that, and now she wants taxpayers to indemnify her for taking a loss on a risk she assumed on her own. The government doesn’t exist to remove risk from speculative investments, and to the extent that they do so, they only ensure that more speculation rather than less takes place in the future.