Who is to blame for the financial crisis ?

The conventional view is that the bankers and lenders were greedy and in their attempts to get their bonuses, went on a lending spree to unsuspecting borrowers. The Wall Street has been accused of being corrupt, stupid and irresponsible. Obama and McCain ensure that the message is repeated in every rally and sound bite.

Is this true?

The root cause of this crisis is in the sub-prime mortgages. And the fact is that the US government policies have led to this fall. Right from the days of GI bill, the government has followed a policy of encouraging home ownership at any cost, blatantly flouting sound economics. The borrower had the options of refinancing a long-term loan at his convenience for times when interests went down but staying at a fixed interest otherwise. This threw the mortgage lender into a crunch in the interest-volatile periods. In order to manage the interest fluctuations esp. after the seventies, the financial system engaged in significant financial engineering through multiple instruments.

Later, the US system encouraged loans with low interest rates and poor credit checks precisely because the risk had been parceled off though financial instruments and the players like the loan originators, brokers and banks had no risk of any bad debts. This encouraged many individuals to stretch themselves thin with low down payments, high loans, long repayment periods and the party had to collapse after the increasing realty prices became unsustainable and started going down.

Now the government and the politicians want to subsidize the system through a bailout so that the individuals who borrowed indiscriminately actually get a reprieve for their follies. As in the earlier government interventions, the solution proposed is based on self-interest rather than solving the problem. This will only ensure that the system is not cleansed fully and we live to see another day.


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