BLOG VIEW: I have a confession to make: I am a huge fan of the books, TV shows and websites that promulgate the ‘ancient astronauts’ theory. For those who are unaware of what that is all about, I'll describe it in the proverbial nutshell: The great engineering accomplishments created by the ancient cultures of the Middle East and South America came about when extra-terrestrials arrived on Earth and provided the clueless human populations with the knowledge and tools to create the extraordinary temples, pyramids, castles and towers that were the crowning achievements of distant civilizations.
Admittedly, scientific evidence supporting this theory is rather scant. And many scholars question why the altruistic aliens concentrated in Pharaonic Egypt and Mesoamerica but did not invest in Europe – though, in view of the current crisis affecting the Eurozone nations, perhaps the extra-terrestrials were prescient enough to realize that investing in Europe is just not a good idea. Nonetheless, the ancient astronauts theory continues to thrive, and common sense is no deterrent to its appeal.
I am hopeful that the extra-terrestrials at the core of the ancient astronauts theory would zoom their UFOs back toÂ today's U.S. and offer their wisdom in solving the crises that plague the federal housing finance system. Whereas the ancient astronauts supposedly offered their intelligence reconfiguring the commercial real estate for the clueless folk of centuries past, today's outer space denizens are probably the only ones who could offer an intelligent solution to the current shambles in Washington.
I mean, seriously, who is going to solve today's housing finance problems? The Obama administration? Heck, the administration achieved the impossible by taking a George W. Bush-orchestrated housing policy mess and making it much worse. There has been no serious effort to lead on the issue of reforming the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs), and even the president admitted that his loan modification programs fell far short of their goals. My biggest fear is that the next four years will be a reprise of the last four years.
But what about the GOP leadership in Congress? Well, that depends on whether you believe there is GOP leadership in Congress or whether there are just a bunch of sneering guys trying to throw banana peels under the president's feet. I think we have a better chance of seeing Kim Kardashian renouncing the red carpet for a life in a convent than we have of seeing Rep. John Boehner and his cronies offering anything that resembles a cogent solution to housing-related issues.
Of course, we could wait for the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to ride to the rescue – provided the agency bothers to speak to the public. Lately, the only way we discover what's really happening inside the FHFA is through investigative journalism and Freedom of Information Act requests.
Lest we forget, the FHFA was discovered to have secretly hired PriceWaterhouseCoopers last May to create contingency plans for taking the GSEs into receivership. And last month, news floated out about an internal memo written by the FHFA's inspector general that warned the GSEs lost billions of dollars as a result of the manipulation of the London Interbank Offered Rate by major banks. The FHFA, incredibly, denied both stories – it stated that it had no plans to put the GSEs in receivership and insisted that its inspector general was wrong. Oh, sure, that really sounds plausible.
So, maybe the mortgage banking industry's leadership can come to the rescue? Last month, the Mortgage Bankers Association reprised its 2009 task force to come up with a solution for the GSE reform problem. Well, if this version of the task force follows in the footsteps of the 2009 edition, we'll have a wonderful plan that will generate a polite ‘Uh-huh’ from Capitol Hill and the White House.
Of course, many economists believe that improvement in the job market will help spur a parallel recovery in housing. But considering that the jobs being created today are mostly lower-wage and part-time, or that the decline in the unemployment rate is actually a reflection of the tens of thousands of people who've given up looking for work, this seems even sillier than my beloved ancient astronauts theory.
As for me, I'll keep my telescope pointed at the diagonal three-star belt of the constellation Orion in search of housing finance saviors from distant galaxies. Until such time that real leadership and practical solutions are put forward by the humans in our midst, I'll keep the faith that E.T. and company will come back to Earth and pick up where they left off many centuries ago.
– Phil Hall, editor, MortgageOrb
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