I am glad that Occupy Baltimore is focusing on the foreclosure problem ("Occupy turns to housing," June 13), but blaming "those who amassed fortunes by speculating on collateralized mortgage payments" is off the mark.
There is plenty of blame to go around, starting with the homeowners who treated their houses as ATM machines and refinanced several times over in a rising market only to find themselves underwater when the housing bubble burst. What about the real estate speculators who flew in on the red-eye from California to buy slum properties in Baltimore, figuring they could sell them later at a profit? They're still the same slum properties. People took out "liar loans" for houses they couldn't afford; some knew they couldn't make the payments. Unscrupulous mortgage brokers handed out cash down payments to buyers on the way to settlement knowing they were making bad loans but not caring because they could immediately sell them on the secondary mortgage market. The appraisers who overvalued the properties were in on the game. The banks that securitized the loans, the rating agencies that were supposed to vet them and didn't (because they were being paid by the banks), the U.S. Congressthat encouraged Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to get into the subprime mortgage business because it fostered "home ownership," the chairman of the Federal Reserve who maintained there was no housing bubble while he was pouring gasoline on the fire with low interest rates — all had a hand in creating the mess we're now trying to dig ourselves out of.
Yes, I invested in mortgages, fortunately the ones in the A tranche. I didn't make a fortune, nor did I lose much. But I sure learned a lot about the mortgage business. At the bottom of the economic malaise in Europe and America is a huge pool of subprime mortgages. Just as it took years to crank up the money machine, it will take years to wind it down. And some of my fellow mortgage investors are now suing the people who sold them the junk.
James D. Dilts, BaltimoreCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun