To Bailout or Not to Bailout: Mortgage Mess Endgames Emerging

Nice piece at Naked Capitalism.

In the last week, several ideas for fixing the housing market have surfaced. One is the Third Way proposal, which appears to be an Administration trial balloon. Predictably, it is yet anther bailout, with plenty of smoke and mirrors to disguise that fact.

A second proposal, from Sheila Bair yesterday, is to establish a “foreclosure claims commission“. This is in keeping with the direction that Iowa’s Tom Miller has been pushing for with the 50 state attorneys general investigation. This scheme sounds more promising that the Third Way proposal, but is very likely to wind up in bailout territory.

Third is a not-widely-covered plan by Senator Jeff Merkley which has two provisions that would force banks to address the fact that mortgages are deeply under water. That makes it firmly anti-bailout (or more accurately, any resulting bailouts would be explicit as opposed to buried in various mortgage market gimmies to banks). It would thus speed recognition of housing market losses, force debt writedowns, and accelerate repricing and clearing of the housing market.

The Merkley proposal is pro consumer and pro investor; the other two are pro bank. Sadly, it isn’t hard to see which is likely to prevail in the absence of public pressure. …