By INVESTOR’S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Friday, October 03, 2008 4:20 PM PT
Financial History: Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat its serious mistakes. Today some have asked if we could have another 1929-like depression. No, it should not happen.
IBD Series: After The Rescue: Challenges Ahead
Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat its serious mistakes. Today some have questioned whether we could have another 1929-style Depression. The answer is no — at least, it shouldn’t happen.
Then we had over 25% unemployment; now it’s 6% and could move somewhat higher, which is typical for economic corrections. Then, by 1934 about one-half of mortgages were in default, today it is only 6%. Nearly 94% of homeowners are still making their monthly payments.
View larger image
America is far bigger today, more diversified, productive, innovative and resilient and the government’s rescue package will help stabilize our banking credit system and economy for the benefit of all Americans. The price of oil and other commodities has topped, so interest rates can and should be lowered, helping all consumers.
Understanding history now is absolutely vital: How did we get where we are? What was the real cause, what were the true reasons behind our current subprime real estate loan mess — and not what politicians are now attempting to falsely claim? Finally, what are the most serious threats America will face in the next five years?
The reason we shouldn’t have another 1929 is our Nasdaq composite (the stock index that includes America’s modern-day entrepreneurial leaders) already had its 1929-like break in the three years from 2000 through 2002. Since then it put in a strong five-year recovery up to last November. That recovery was due to the broad-based, and highly successful, tax cuts pushed through by President Bush in 2001 and 2003. We are now in the midst of a normal cyclical market correction, with the economy having created 9 million jobs since the 2003 tax cuts.
The Nasdaq’s price action since the 1990s, like clockwork, closely parallels, tracks, and eerily replicates the Dow Jones Industrials’ wild speculative run-up to its 1929 bubble peak, the ensuing three-year, 88% collapse to the Depression lows in June 1932, followed by the recovery run-up to 1937 and the ensuing sharp correction. Based on historical data, today’s market is likely to be a repeat of 1938 — not 1929.
To show what we mean, the accompanying chart overlays the Nasdaq index from the early 1990s to October 2008 with the Dow industrials chart from the early 1920s to the end of 1942.
Maybe you’re surprised to see these two indexes seem so remarkably similar — both their up cycles and their down cycles. The reason for this is simple: while technology continually changes, human nature remains the same. The stock market is human nature on daily display, and history continually repeats itself.
Psychologically, the roaring 1920s were just like our “anything goes 1990s.” America had just won World War I (the war to end all wars). It was the auto and airplane age, the radio was invented and speakeasies boomed.
Likewise, in the 1990s we had just won the Cold War when the 70-year-old Soviet Union disintegrated onto the ash heap of history as Ronald Reagan’s successful policy of “we win, they lose” replaced containment and the nuclear doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction — dubbed “MAD.”
The “peace dividend” resulting from sharp cuts in defense spending helped Bill Clinton achieve a balanced budget. It was the new age of the Internet, biotech and high tech stocks. For nearly five years, prices on the Nasdaq soared. Indeed, to its peak the Nasdaq increased 2 1/2 times what the Dow Jones industrials did during its 1920s climax run.
But those astronomical Nasdaq price gains culminated in the Clinton stock market bubble, which burst in early 2000. Within the space of months, an estimated $8 trillion in U.S. stock market wealth was erased.
So how did we get where we are now? What was the real true cause of the current subprime real estate debacle that endangered not only our entire financial system, but put so many lower income people out of their homes and forced the government to an emergency rescue package?
Every American should know the truth about who engineered the rules for this extraordinary mess so that we all learn a valuable lesson. We need to be much smarter the next time around.
In 1977, President Carter and a Democrat Congress created the Community Reinvestment Act mandating that banks must meet the credit needs of everyone in the banks’ community, including uncreditworthy borrowers. It was done for a good social purpose and had the greatest intentions — expanding home ownership. And, through the 1980s and into the 1990s at least, it seemed to work.
However in 1995, President Bill Clinton imposed more and stronger regulations and performance tests. These coerced banks into significantly increasing their loans to low-income borrowers in economically-troubled communities, or face possible fines and expansion restrictions.
These new rules encouraged banks to bundle their risky subprime loans together with prime loans and re-sell them in packages to other financial institutions, thereby freeing the original lenders from any further risk. Thanks to the new rules and oversight from the CRA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac got involved in a big way, buying literally trillions of dollars of the questionable loans from banks and feeding the dangerous cycle that had begun.
Eventually, it turned into a kind of pyramid scheme that overwhelmed some lending organizations when housing prices softened in late 2006 and 2007.
So what’s the big lesson to be learned here by the public? That this financial crisis was the result of yet another Big Government program that had great intentions but created devastating unintended consequences that hurt millions of people.
It was not the fault of African American groups, which naturally want to help their people. Nor was it the fault of America’s free enterprise system, or a lack of enough regulation. No, it was Big Government once again trying to run a private industry.
You can’t take one dollar and loan it 50 times. Watch out when Big Government spenders tell you they can run our entire medical industry, give you far better care and save you lots of money.
On Tuesday we look at national security challenges.