How Not To Save Housing

Robert J. Samuelson – How Not To Save Housing –

About 50 million homeowners have mortgages. Who wouldn’t like the government to cut their monthly payments by 20 or 30 percent? But Frank’s plan reserves that privilege for an estimated 1 million to 2 million homeowners who are the weakest and most careless borrowers. With the FHA now authorized to lend up to $729,750 in high-cost areas, some beneficiaries could be fairly wealthy. By contrast, people who made larger down payments or kept their monthly payments at manageable levels would be made relatively worse off. Government punishes prudence and rewards irresponsibility. Inevitably, there would be resentment and pressures to extend relief to other “needy” homeowners.

The justification is to prevent an uncontrolled collapse of home prices that would inflict more losses on lenders — aggravating the “credit crunch” — and postpone a revival in home buying and building. This gets the economics backward. From 2000 to 2006, home prices rose 50 percent or more by various measures. Housing affordability deteriorated, with home buying sustained only by a parallel deterioration of lending standards. With credit standards now tightened, home prices should fall to bring buyers back into the market and to reassure lenders that they’re not lending on inflated properties.

I bought my house in 2001. I made a 20% down-payment on a house that was about 2.5 times my annual income, and at the time had enough savings to cover a good number of months of living expenses, including mortgage, should I lose my job. Last year, I took a home equity loan for a home-improvement project that was 15-20% of my home value, or 1/4 to 1/3 of my equity. I’m in a savings position now that if I had to, I could pay off my outstanding mortgage debt, the only debt I’m carrying by heavily dipping into my retirement account and other savings.

Meanwhile, others went into debt for the full purchase price of their property, plus closing costs, in houses that cost many times their annual income with little or no savings. And those people are about to get rewarded by the government for the profiigacy? And as Samuelson notes, my home value will suffer as a result? So, I get punished for doing the right thing, while those who took patently stupid steps will get rewarded?

Only in politics could this be considered a rational solution. The best bet: let housing prices fall (which would also help solve the affordable housing crisis we hear so much about). I’ll lose some net worth either way, but overall it will be better for me, the economy as a whole and not create the moral hazard of showing the government will reward stupid decisions.


“Public affairs go on pretty much as usual: perpetual chicanery and rather more personal abuse than there used to be.” – John Adams

“I would like to electrocute everyone who uses the word ‘fair’ in connection with income tax policies.”- William F. Buckley Jr.

“I make myself rich by making my wants few.”- Henry David Thoreau

“I love a dog. He does nothing for political reasons.”- Will Rogers

“The grand paradox of our society is this: we magnify man’s right but we minimize his capacities.”- Joseph Wood Krutch

“I am not criticizing Democrats for being partisan; I’m suggesting they are cynically insincere or grossly self-deceived when they pretend to aspire to bipartisanship. They don’t seek compromise; they want the unopposed implementation of their unadulterated liberal agenda.”- David Limbaugh

“The ideology of the Left is based upon identity, not ideas, and was therefore bound to degenerate into political cannibalism, as feminists and racialists scurry for power.”- George Neumayr

“Wise men in our civilization have argued for centuries that four conditions must be met to justify war: It must counter a great and certain threat, it must be a last resort, it must have a reasonable chance of success, and it cannot be anticipated to cause more harm than it prevents. Leaving Iraq now would cause more harm than it prevents.”- Terry Jeffrey

“Being a disinterested government official does not mean that you know what you are doing. That fact gets left out of the equation in a lot of proposals for new government programs.”- Thomas Sowell

“The latest in the series of pointless gestures that constitute Congressional energy policy came yesterday, when executives from five major oil companies were paraded before Ed Markey’s House hearing on global warming. They served as political props for Members to denounce rising gas prices, ventilate Dick Cheney conspiracy theories and otherwise advertise their ignorance of the markets they purportedly oversee. Democrats, for instance, might rejoice over higher energy costs, which is precisely the eco-policy they’ve been advocating for years. Until Congress finds a way to abolish the price mechanism, paying more for gasoline is the only signal that will tell Americans to cut their consumption. How exactly do Democrats think a carbon tax or cap-and-trade regime is going to work? The oil executives performed a public service by pointing out other economic realities. About 70% of the price of gasoline is determined by the global price of crude, which is rising because of world-wide demand and volatility in the commodities markets, not to mention the Federal Reserve’s easy-money policy. Congress might also look to its gas mandates and the corset it has laced around domestic production. It’s true that industry profits are at a record high, but oil is a classic boom-and-bust business, which is why billions in capital investments are folded back into exploration and production. Besides, the industry’s effective tax rates are in the neighborhood of 40% to 44%. Over the past five years, Exxon Mobil’s total U.S. tax bill exceeded its U.S. revenues by some $19 billion. Mr. Markey also used the occasion to threaten special tax increases, grilling the executives about $18 billion in ‘subsidies,’ which are actually a tax deduction that Congress itself extended to all manufacturers, including Big Oil. And he demanded that the companies commit 10% of profits to renewable energy. But as an Exxon vice president put it, fossil fuels are still going to account for at least two-thirds of the world’s energy consumption in three decades and whatever scientific progress is made, the practical prospects for alternatives remain ‘very, very small’.”- The Wall Street Journal

“When the going gets tough the not-so-tough surrender to hysteria.”- Wesley Pruden

“About this business of Hillary coming under intense sniping, I have some sympathy. The Clintons got away with this sort of thing for so long that you can’t blame them for wondering how they missed the memo advising that henceforth the old rules no longer apply.”- Mark Steyn

“Democrats run their own elections the way they run the government: in ways you can’t possibly understand that make no sense, that are not fair, and that are total bureaucratic nightmares.”- Rush Limbaugh

“American women are the freest, wealthiest, most educated in the world. They are liberated enough to choose someone for president other than a female candidate out of uterus-based loyalty.”- Michelle Malkin

“This weekend, Bill Clinton said Hillary should not drop out of the presidential race. Yeah, when asked why, Bill said, ‘Because then she’d come home’.”- Conan O’Brien

Jay Leno: Here’s kind of a philosophical question: If a sniper fires a gun in the woods and nobody’s around, does Hillary Clinton still hear it? … Hey, have you heard Hillary Clinton’s new campaign slogan? “Incoming!” … As you know, Hillary Clinton now blaming her embellishment of her Bosnia trip on lack of sleep. See, that’s the difference between Hillary and Bill right there. After a night of no sleep, Bill never had a problem coming up with a believable story. … Actually, new revelations about Hillary’s trip to Bosnia. You know that whole thing? It turns out it was a misunderstanding. Now she says she went there looking to hire a sniper…. It looks like there’s a little more fudging of Hillary’s records. Remember when she said she was deeply involved in the Irish Peace Process? Turns out, she just saw “Lord of the Dance.” … It’s getting nasty. Hillary and Barack really going at it. They’re insulting each other, trading barbs, attacking each other’s credibility. In fact, the only break they take from attacking each other is when they promise the American people, if elected, they can unite the country.

Asperger’s and IT: Dark secret or open secret?

Asperger’s and IT: Dark secret or open secret?

I definitely believe this article’s point: that there are many autistics in IT. I can remember at one company meeting, they brought in a speaker to teach us how to be better consultants, and one of his points was that it wasn’t just how good our code was, but that we also had to talk to our clients and build relationships with them. We couldn’t just hide in our cubes all day and code. One of my coworkers shouted out, “But that’s why I got into IT!” and we all burst out laughing because for many of us that’s true.

Every time I read about autism, I see myself described. I am a creature of routine. I don’t enjoy interaction, especially with crowds. I’m happiest left alone with my coding and enjoy getting into the details of a program.

Going through some of the criteria this article cites:

* “But the interpersonal interactions that went along with the position — the hearty backslaps from random users, the impromptu meetings — were literally unbearable for Ryno.” – I don’t like being touched. I’ve actually had a fist cocked ready to throw a punch when touched unexpectedly. My grandfather spent years mad at me because I didn’t want to hug my grandmother, accusing me of “disrespecting” her. He never realized that I spent those years not hugging or touching anyone. Even when I’m very comfortable with someone I sometimes don’t want to be touched. There were times I’d have to tell my last girlfriend to stop touching me because it almost hurt me, even her hand was just resting on me. It hurt her when I did that, but I think she came to understand that it truly wasn’t her, but completely something wrong with me. I couldn’t ever figure out what caused it either, it just came on me suddenly.
* “Bob, a database applications programmer who’s been working in high tech for 26 years, has an aptitude for math and logic. And he has what he calls his “strange memory.” If he can’t recall the answer to a question, he can recall exactly, as if in a digital image, where he first saw the answer, down to the page and paragraph and sentence.” – I can occasionally reproduce conversations word for word years after they happened. (But ask me where I just my glasses and I’m screwed.)
* “Bob has some behavior quirks as well: He can become nonverbal when he’s frustrated, and he interprets things literally — he doesn’t read between the lines.” – When emotions are strong, my verbal skills do disappear. And I can be extremely hyperliteral.
* “What Jeremy is not good at is suffering fools in the workplace or dealing with the endless bureaucracy of the modern corporation. If someone is wrong — if their idea just plain won’t work — he says so, simply states the fact. That frankness causes all manner of upset in the office, he’s discovered.” – A conversation with a former boss: “Paul, I get the sense you don’t suffer fools gladly.” “[Name deleted], I don’t suffer fools at all.” And I’m well known for saying exactly what I think, consequences be damned.
* “The Big Interest is a great start to Aspie-spotting.” – Definitely me. I’ve gone through many border-line obsessive interests in my life: first baseball, then science fiction, then politics, and lately its been Catholicism. While each interest never drove out all other interests, I do tend to have one dominate.
* “The Asperger’s brain is interested in things rather than people” – Again, me. I’d often rather read than talk to people. And while talking to people, I get distracted by something I can fiddle rather easily. (Or maybe I’m just rude.)
* Grandin’s “good jobs for nonvisual thinkers,” which she further defines as “those who are good at math, music or facts,” includes computer programming, engineering, inventory control and physics. – Had I not majored in math, I would have into something physics related.
* “I don’t blink. I stare.” – I can’t tell you the number of times I’m sure I’ve offended women because they thought I was staring at them when I wasn’t even consciously aware someone in my line of sight. (Monday night I’m pretty sure I did heading to my car after a stop at a hardware store.)

A few years ago, my mother told me she thought I was slightly autistic. I checked out the symptoms online as found a number of hits for traits I have. When I mentioned this to me now-ex-girlfriend, she agreed it was a strong possibility. As the article linked above points out, a large number of cases are not diagnosed until well into adulthood. But at what point is a possible autism diagnosis just a “cover” for extreme introversion and strong Type-A personality, both of which also describe me?

So, I have no particular interest in finding out if I am truly autistic or just a pain in the ass. (As one of my aunts said, “Paul, when you were little, you were a real pain in the ass.”) I’m going to try to overcome these “flaws” either way. But having tendencies in that direction, I can definitely be sympathetic to those who are autistic.

Today is World Autism Awareness Day. Take a little time to read more about it.