SIEGEL: But what's the risk of providing some kind of mortgage relief, whether it's a suspension of full monthly payments, or whether it's a reduction in the principal for somebody whose house plummeted in value and who is also unemployed and really will have a very hard time making the payments regardless?
Mr. RITHOLTZ: From a broad perspective, again, you're keeping them in a house that they can't afford, and they'd be much better off going to a place that leaves them a little spare change in their pocket, as opposed to just draining everything they have to make those payments.
Secondly, if these banks have their balance sheets just festooned with bad loans, we're not allowing them or not forcing them to do what they're supposed to do, which is take the write-down, get it off their books, free up some capital and move forward as a healthy lending institution.
SIEGEL: There's another party to this I want you to address, and that is homeowners who are not underwater, indeed who may have paid off their mortgage or never had a mortgage, for that matter. If the banks, indeed, do clear of all the bad mortgage loans from their books, and we foreclose on everything that's to be foreclosed on, everyone's real estate values would go down as a result, wouldn't they, and therefore homeowners have a stake in seeing that not happen?
Mr. RITHOLTZ: Yes, that's true. But remember, a lot of the value that we've seen, the quote-unquote "price gains in homes," were completely artificial. So by propping up home prices, you're punishing everybody who is waiting to buy a house. Anybody who's been saving, you're forcing them out of the housing market because you're artificially maintaining this house price. And I say this as someone, we own a home, we have a vacation property. It's not in my interest to see home prices come down. But for the rest of the economy, it's in our interest to see prices normalize, and that hasn't happened yet.
The government is picking winners.. they are first and foremost the banks... and secondly the people who strategically default and don't get foreclosed on because the government has massively interfered with that process. I'm sure many strategic defaulters will win twice... first not paying and then.. eventually getting a heavily modified mortgage and resuming paying. Renters, taxpayers and savers get the shaft (pretty much in that order). Lucky for me I am all three!