Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Helping the Banks instead of Helping People

David Dayen describes a bombshell from Neil Barofsky's awesome-sounding book:
The important moment in the book for me comes conveniently after Barofsky recounts this FDL News item, one of my HAMP horror stories. Barofsky shows how HAMP’s faulty design led to all sorts of problems like this, with trapped borrowers, extended trial payments, no-doc modifications, and eventually unnecessary foreclosures. Barofsky mused that Treasury didn’t care about the suffering of borrowers under HAMP, and the issue came up in a meeting with the Treasury Secretary, which was also attended by Elizabeth Warren, then the head of the Congressional Oversight Panel, another TARP watchdog.

Warren asked Geithner repeatedly about HAMP. After several evasions, Geithner said about the banks, “We estimate that they can handle ten million foreclosures, over time… this program will help foam the runway for them.”

This is a revelatory moment for Barofsky in the book, and should be for everyone reading. Geithner’s concern, first of all, was with how the banks would respond to the program, not how homeowners would respond to it. In fact, homeowners are quite besides the point. Regardless of their situation, they will be one of the 10 million foreclosures, in Geithner’s construction. His goal was merely to space out the foreclosures and give the banks time to earn their way back to health, mostly through the other parts of the bailout, that enabled them to earn profits.

This is a classic “extend and pretend” scheme; banks can extend the time frame for their losses, and pretend they were financially strong in the meantime. We previously had evidence that Geithner and the Treasury Department thought this way. In August 2010, a Treasury official (which Barofsky outs in the book as Geithner) made basically the same defense of HAMP, that it would give time for the banks to absorb foreclosures rather than have them come on the market all at once. But that came as a defense of the program after the fact. This scene with Warren and Barofsky came in mid-2009, when the program was in its infancy. And it’s prospective, not retrospective. It’s not that Treasury came up with a justification after the performance of HAMP faltered. It’s that it was designed this way.
This account makes clear what we've known for some time. Rather than a program to help the foreclosure crisis, it was designed to help the banks, and help the banks alone.

This administration hasn't given a shit about the foreclosure crisis, and has done nothing to help homeowners in need. In fact, they designed a program filled with ways to screw homeowners, solely because it would help the greater goal (in their minds) which was recapitalizing the banks. A lot of suffering has occurred from foreclosures because the administration chose to think about the banks first, and everyone else never. That's on Tim Geithner and Obama. No excuses.

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