"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘Housing’

A Failed Social Model: Providing Basic Goods Via Crushing Consumer Debt

In Uncategorized on November 22, 2011 at 4:15 pm

Oldspeak:” Something to think about days before the annual hedonistic consumption orgy that is “Black Friday” when crushing consumer debt will likely increase. “We have been living in a society where debts, rather than rights, have been the major means for accessing basic social goods like housing, education, and health care. That social model was built around the assumption that while real incomes stagnated and the state did not directly provide many basic goods through universal entitlements, cheap credit would do the trick instead. High finance was inextricably intertwined with the privileges of citizenship.” –Alex Gourevitch When High finance is linked to a system, you can pretty much guarantee it will be accompanied by exploitation, corruption, fraud, greed and disenfranchisement. We are beginning to see the devastating effects of attaching debt commitments to basic needs combined with decades long wage stagnation for most workers and concentration of wealth among owners. A collapsed housing market and unprecedented rates of foreclosure. 1 in 5 Americans on food stamps. 1 in 3 children living in poverty. Widespread medical bankruptcies and less and less access to preventative health care.  Exploding student loan debt and creation of artificially constricted choice of profession and shortages of manpower in vital and low-paid ‘public interest’ jobs. All while the banksters have grown richer and more brazen in their casino capitalistic practices. Providing basic social goods for all has very few negative consequences. However it doesn’t adhere to basic corporcratic ethos “Internalize profits, externalize costs”, thus universal rights and freedoms will continue to be at worst denied, and at best a monetarily  based privilege. “Profit Is Paramount”

By Alex Gourevitch @ New Deal 2.0:

Some things — education, health, housing — should be rights, not financed through taking on more and more debt.

Occupiers have joined anti-foreclosure advocates to occupy home auctions and abandoned buildings and block foreclosures. A few state attorneys general have begun resisting the Obama administration’s awful mortgage fraud settlement and started investigating banks and servicers. Even shareholders are in revolt, filing class action suits against their companies. By one measure, student loans are one of the biggest concerns amongst supporters of Occupy Wall Street. There is now an OccupyStudentDebt. A petition to forgive student loans has gathered 300,000 signatures and was included as part of a general debt forgiveness bill on the floor of the House of Representatives. Congress has even begun to touch on medical debt issues.

Taken together, we can say that these and other actions are the sign of growing resistance to key aspects of the social model of the past 30 to 40 years. We have been living in a society where debts, rather than rights, have been the major means for accessing basic social goods like housing, education, and health care. That social model was built around the assumption that while real incomes stagnated and the state did not directly provide many basic goods through universal entitlements, cheap credit would do the trick instead. High finance was inextricably intertwined with the privileges of citizenship. This was not a very good social model. With any luck, and a serious amount of political action, current resistance could lead to alternative ways of thinking about how we make these goods available to all.

After all, while the previous decade has been represented as a debt-financed spending binge when consumers lived well beyond their means, it turns a complex story into a morality play. A major part of the credit ‘binge’ was about necessities, not luxuries. Sub-prime mortgages (especially with the decline of affordable housing) were the only way for many to become homeowners. Similarly, student loans were the only way for many to gain access to higher education and thus participate as equals in the radically unequal distribution of opportunity in the United States. The total value of student loans has surpassed total credit card debt, and is projected to top $1 trillion later this year. Mike Konczal posted the following graph at Rortybomb showing the dramatic rise of student debt. In a decade, student loans have gone from a third of consumer loans to far more than half.

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We find a similar story in health care. Two major national studies of medical indebtedness by a group of scholars, including Elizabeth Warren, have shown that illness and medical costs are a major cause of household bankruptcy. They noted that by 2001 “illness or medical bills contributed to about half of bankruptcies.” Notably, in their 2001 study, they found that 75.7 percent of medical debtorshad insurance at the onset of illness. Underinsurance, as much as lack of insurance, was a major financial burden. So too was loss of income due to illness (by their estimate, income loss is 40 percent of medical-related indebtedness). Worse yet, their follow up 2007 study of medical indebtedness notes that the “number of un- and underinsured Americans has grown; health costs have increased; and Congress tightened the bankruptcy laws.” That has led to a 50 percent increase in the proportion of bankruptcies attributable to medical problems. These bankruptcies, moreover, occurred in families only marginally worse than the median income and occupational class of American citizens. Once again, indebtedness is the product of the 99% trying to meet the costs of a basic good — health care.

If there is a reasonable expectation that debtors can meet their interest payments then in theory debt is not a particularly bad way to finance access to certain goods. It is on the individual borrower to make a judgment about what constitutes a reasonable debt burden.

There are, however, two problems with this theoretical view. First, there might be very good social reasons to not want to yoke access to certain social goods to debt. Education is a prime example. Taking on debt means accepting a kind of discipline. One must make all future calculations about, say, educational and career choices with the need to meet future interest payments in mind. In conscious and unconscious ways this narrows horizons and produces a more instrumental relationship to education. In college I saw concerns about debt shape decisions about which classes to take and what to major in. I also saw many of my college classmates make more conservative professional choices (corporate law, consulting, finance, medical specialist) than they might otherwise have made (public service, teaching, science, public interest law) in order to ensure their ability to pay back loans. This appears to have been a pattern. A study of educational and career choices in the early 2000s by Princeton economists has found that “debt causes graduates to choose substantially higher-salary jobs and reduces the probability that students choose low-paid ‘public interest’ jobs.”

It is frequently observed that the growth of finance sucked up the math and physics geniuses, who might have contributed something lasting to society, into hedge funds and investment banks to ruinous effect. But the alteration of professional choices is much wider than that. The number crunchers at the top were, one suspects, lured away by lucrative pay. The much more widespread, and difficult to measure, shift in career choices due to the discipline of debt burdens is probably the more important, and still ongoing, consequence of high student loans.

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If access to higher education were on the order of something like a right — a publicly financed good, provided at little or no cost, to ensure real equality of opportunity — then one can imagine a much different set of results. While conservatives like to talk about ‘freedom,’ this is a place where the left ought to have the upper hand in connecting economic practices to real freedoms. Providing necessary social goods, especially education, as a right rather than through debt not only reduces the disciplining effects of the latter. It also is a way of publicly recognizing and democratically defending the real freedoms of all citizens.

To be clear, this is not a moralistic criticism of debt as evil or irresponsible. But there are very good reasons why society would not want to impose certain kinds of discipline on (most of) its citizens. Firstly, from a social point of view, people’s talents might be much more productively used in some other area than those that promise the most immediate monetary returns. There is no shortage of aspiring bankers and traders, but there is a primary care doctor shortage. Primary care doctors can graduate medical school with as much as $200,000 in debt.

A second reason is that practice does not resemble theory. Again, the theory is that so long as each individual makes a reasonable calculation about his or her ability to meet debt payments, there is nothing wrong with financing access to basic social goods through credit. Putting systematic fraud aside (but remembering it is unlikely that credit can sink that far into housing and educational markets without it), there is a deep historical reason for thinking that practice was the opposite of theory. The rise of debt-financed household consumption generally was the product of stagnating wages. Consider, for instance, this research by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco comparing the growth of debt, wealth, and income:

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Or compare the above growth of household debt with the stagnation of wages and benefits during that same period (from State of Working America):

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Debt-financed consumption was, in other words, a response to the declining ability of most households to afford existing rates of consumption, not an increasing ability or trust in future ability to pay back that debt.

The entire social model, then, was built on a lie. The separation of consumption (financed by future promises to pay) from production (based on limiting present ability to earn) was a mirage. The problem has been that the underlying right to maintain a certain standard of living, or even to access to certain basic social goods like housing, health, and education, was just that: implicit. Every so often, of course, it was made somewhat public — for instance when Clinton or Bush would say something about providing housing to the poor and minorities who could not otherwise afford it (mainly by changing market incentives and promoting sub-prime borrowing, as it turned out). But this promise was always implicit and had to stay that way because it was mediated through the credit system. Access to these basic social goods was never a fully publicclaim each individual had against society. Instead, access to these social goods was a matter of a complex series of private, individualized claims against other private institutions like banks and employers, with the public role submerged in the form of altered market incentives. That is the difference between debt and right, and it is clear that the debt-based social model has failed.

There are certainly some situations where debt-financed consumption is a perfectly good option. For instance, the current call for more fiscal austerity at the federal level is ideological claptrap. Moreover, any economy always has to take a bet on the future if it is going to innovate, especially since innovation always comes with the risk of failure. But there are certain kinds of basic goods that are better provided as a matter of universal right, both for the sake of the freedom of the persons who need those goods and as a matter of economic efficiency and productivity. We can have risk-averse graduates and a chronically ill workforce chained to underwater mortgages, or we can have healthy, well-educated citizens with enough security, and thus freedom, to take real risks in their lives.

Alex Gourevitch a Post-Doctoral Research Associate at the Political Theory Project at Brown University. He also runs a blog calledThe Current Moment.

“Gaming the System”: Study Details How Big Banks Are Avoiding Lending Obligations Under Community Reinvestment Act

In Uncategorized on August 12, 2010 at 4:37 pm

Oldspeak:”The usual suspects, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Citibank and Bank of America, doin their usually suspect business: Squeezing much money out of those with the least of it .”

From Amy Goodman @ Democracy Now:

Guests:

Liz Ryan Murray, senior policy analyst at National People’s Action and co-author of the report “Gaming the System.”

Reverend Dr. Eugene Barnes, President of the Board of National People’s Action.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Federal bank and thrift regulatory agencies are holding a series of public hearings in cities across the country this summer to reevaluate the Community Reinvestment Act. The act was passed in 1977 to stop the redlining of low-income neighborhoods and communities on color. Critics have said it contributed to the subprime crisis, but community groups say it was an out-of-date and weak law that could improve bank practices, when used effectively.

Well, a new report from National People’s Action, a Chicago-based coalition of community groups around the country, shows exactly how big banks have been able to wiggle around their obligations under the Community Reinvestment Act. The report is called “Gaming the System,” and it focuses on Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Citibank and Bank of America.

AMY GOODMAN: And we’re joined by two guests in Chicago, where federal agencies are holding a public hearing today on the act. Liz Ryan Murray is senior policy analyst at National People’s Action and co-author of the report “Gaming the System.” And Reverend Dr. Eugene Barnes from Champaign, Illinois, is president of the board of National People’s Action. He’ll be testifying at today’s hearing.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Liz Ryan Murray, let’s start with you. Lay out your major concerns.

LIZ RYAN MURRAY: The major concerns with the way the banks have approached the law is by getting around it. In 1977, as was reported, the law was passed, and when it did, it a covered the entire lending industry, which was, at the time, depository institutions. Since that time, in the last ten, twenty years, rampant deregulation has led to a whole different lending industry, with mortgage companies, brokers, finance companies doing mortgages, and many of them owned by the big banks. Those mortgage companies are not covered by the Community Reinvestment Act and are not under the scrutiny of the law.

In addition, the way the Community Reinvestment Act works, it only looks at certain parts of where a lender is—a bank is doing their business, based on where their branches are. And that’s not where banks are doing their lending anymore. But that’s where the regulators are looking. So the banks have been doing their shadier business around the law, where they’re not being watched. And it’s those loans, those high-cost loans, the predatory lending, that tanked our economy, destroyed our neighborhoods.

If we can get the Community Reinvestment Act back to cover the lending industry the way it was supposed to be covered, it not only has a dampening effect on those kinds of destructive loans, it’s really a major tool for our recovery. It will encourage small business lending. It encourages home lending. It encourages community-led investment. That’s what we need. We need the banks to come in, fix the mess they created through the economic collapse and the mortgage meltdown, and get back to doing the business they’re supposed to be doing in our communities.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, I was struck by one part of your report that said that three out of every four, 74 percent, of minority African American or Latino customers of big bank affiliate home lenders received high-cost loans, which averaged 10.2 percent on their first lien mortgages in 2006. How were they able to—these big banks, to so easily target African American and Latino communities for these high-cost loans?

LIZ RYAN MURRAY: Well, African American and Latino neighborhoods and low-income neighborhoods have been the canaries in the coal mine for this disaster, the mortgage disaster. They were the first ones to get the high levels of predatory lending. It’s an easy mark. The lenders went in there, destroyed communities wholesale. They went through churches. They went through community centers. They went through neighbors and convinced people that this was the way to go and that this would be better for them, versus the truly toxic and destructive products that they were.

AMY GOODMAN: Reverend Dr. Eugene—

LIZ RYAN MURRAY: And as the report shows—

AMY GOODMAN: Let me bring Reverend Dr. Eugene Barnes into this. Explain what happened in your communities.

REV. DR. EUGENE BARNES: Well, we have to go back to redlining to see what redlining was doing. Redlining—banks had targeted certain areas in which they weren’t lending. And then, when predatory lending came about, that targeted population became that same minority Latino communities that they came in and started passing off these toxic loans, which Warren Buffett calls the real weapons of mass destruction. And so, they already had fertile ground, in terms of being able to make these loans. And then, when they saw how the CRA was able to forge a partnership, community partnerships, they already had a toe in, and then business was easy for them. And through the loopholes that—you know, through CRA, they’ve been able to exploit that, and also they’ve been able to destroy our neighborhoods. And so we really need to strengthen CRA. CRA still has milk on its breath, as compared to the voracious, meat-eating appetite of these large financial institutions who have ravaged our communities.

JUAN GONZALEZ: You find many conservative critics saying that it was as a result of things like CRA that we had the subprime crisis. What’s your response to that, Liz Ryan Murray?

LIZ RYAN MURRAY: Well, that’s a fringe opinion that has been shouted down by data, by regulators, by former regulators, Ben Bernanke, the head of OCC, the Federal Reserve, the FDIC. All the data shows that it was about six percent of the lending that was actually covered by CRA was these high-cost predatory loans. CRA was not the problem. It was what was happening outside of the Community Reinvestment Act that was the problem. Those were the loans that took us down. The loans that were done through Community Reinvestment Act performed very well and were, for the most part, the good-quality lending that our communities need, not the destructive credit that destroyed the neighborhood and destroyed our economy.

AMY GOODMAN: Reverend Dr. Eugene Barnes, what needs to be done now?

REV. DR. EUGENE BARNES: We need to get the banks back in the business of lending, extending credit back to the communities that they destroyed; investing in small business, the mom-and-pop organizations, which have been the backbone of the free enterprise system here in America; renegotiate community agreements with the community organizers, such as National People’s Action and many other community groups out there who knows what the issues are and how to address them; to get the banks to continue to invest and live up to the obligation that they have abrogated since they’ve been able to discover the loopholes of CRA. As long as the financial institutions can fly under the radar of CRA, we’ll never be able to get them to get back into the business of lending.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to leave it there, and I want to thank you both for being with us. We will certainly link to your report “Gaming the System.” Reverend Dr. Eugene Barnes, president of the board of the National People’s Action, and thank you to Liz Ryan Murray, senior policy analyst there and co-author of “Gaming the System.”

Greenspan Wanted Housing Bubble Dissent Kept Secret

In Uncategorized on May 4, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Oldspeak:  “Some people think that the Federal Reserve Banks are United States Government institutions. They are private monopolies which prey upon the people of these United States for the benefit of themselves and their foreign customers; foreign and domestic speculators and swindlers; and rich and predatory money lenders.”

– The Honorable Louis McFadden, Chairman of the House Banking and Currency Committee in the 1930s

Brooksley Born, Jack Guynn, Don Kohn, Cathy Minehan, Tim Geitner… How many warnings went unheeded before the housing collapse? Something has to change at the Fed, perhaps make it an actual gov’t run agency, not a market manipulation tool of the international banking cartels.

From Ryan Grim at The Huffington Post:

As top Federal Reserve officials debated whether there was a housing bubble and what to do about it, then-Chairman Alan Greenspan argued that dissent should be kept secret so that the Fed wouldn’t lose control of the debate to people less well-informed than themselves.

“We run the risk, by laying out the pros and cons of a particular argument, of inducing people to join in on the debate, and in this regard it is possible to lose control of a process that only we fully understand,” Greenspan said, according to the transcripts of a March 2004 meeting.

At the same meeting, a Federal Reserve bank president from Atlanta, Jack Guynn, warned that “a number of folks are expressing growing concern about potential overbuilding and worrisome speculation in the real estate markets, especially in Florida. Entire condo projects and upscale residential lots are being pre-sold before any construction, with buyers freely admitting that they have no intention of occupying the units or building on the land but rather are counting on ‘flipping’ the properties–selling them quickly at higher prices.”

Had Guynn’s warning been heeded and the housing market cooled, the financial collapse of 2008 could have been avoided. But his comment was kept secret until Friday, when the central bankreleased the transcripts of Federal Open Market Committee meetings for 2004 and CalculatedRiskspotted it. The transcripts for 2005 to the present are still secret.

“The substantial run-up in house prices, which we have followed in Florida and also see in the populous Northeast and West Coast of the United States, may be at least partially attributable to unusually low mortgage rates influenced by our very accommodative policy,” Guynn warned.

But when the Fed released contemporaneous minutes of the meeting, the bank downplayed Guynn’s concerns.

“Reports from some contacts suggested that speculative forces might be boosting housing demand in some parts of the country, with concomitant effects on prices, suggesting the possibility that house prices might be moving into the high end of the range that could be consistent with fundamentals,” reads the minutes, which were released to the public several weeks after the meeting.

Note the qualifiers “might be,” “suggesting the possibility,” “might be,” “could be.” In the real world that Guynn described there is nothing whatsoever “consistent with fundamentals” that could explain “buyers freely admitting that they have no intention of occupying the units or building on the land but rather are counting on ‘flipping’ the properties.”

The release of the transcripts comes at a bad time politically for the Federal Reserve, as it works to prevent Congress from authorizing the Government Accountability Office to audit the central bank.

The audit language has already passed the House, despite White House and Fed opposition, anda Senate amendment by Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is gaining momentum, cosponsored as of Monday morning by ten Republicans and five Democrats.

But the Fed also benefits from the timing. “Transcripts of meetings for an entire year are released to the public with a five-year lag,” according the Fed’s own policy. Had the transcripts been released on time, they could have influenced the confirmation of Ben Bernanke for a second term as chairman. Meanwhile, the Fed policy of releasing a full year at once deprives the public of transcripts from the first four months of 2005, which are now five years old. A Fed spokeswoman tells HuffPost those transcripts will be available at roughly this time next year.

At the same March meeting, Bernanke said that he had reviewed the transparency policies of foreign central banks and found that other banks were more forthcoming. “It seems to me that we might want to consider the possibility of providing the public with some type of regular financial stability report, perhaps as part of the Monetary Policy Report to the Congress or in some other existing venue or perhaps as a stand-alone document,” Bernanke suggested. More than five years later, with Bernanke now chairman, that report has yet to be made public, though the Fed did create an inter-divisional internal working group on financial stability.

Other than the passing mention of speculation, the March minutes imply that the meeting participants had a rosy outlook on the housing bubble. “Activity in the housing market moderated in January and February from its elevated pace in the fourth quarter. Single-family housing starts and permits stepped down, although both measures remained above their average levels of the first three quarters of 2003,” the minutes read. “Overall, expenditures were supported by sizable gains in real disposable personal income and increases in household wealth owing to rising home and equity prices. … Committee members noted that activity in the housing sector, while still quite elevated, had fallen back from its extraordinary pace of late last year.”

But there were indications from others that housing prices were getting out of hand. “A second concern is that policy accommodation — and the expectation that it will persist — is distorting asset prices. Most of this distortion is deliberate and a desirable effect of the stance of policy,” said Federal Reserve Board Vice Chairman Don Kohn, meaning that low interest rates were artificially propping up housing prices. “But as members of the Committee have been pointing out, it’s hard to escape the suspicion that at least around the margin some prices and price relationships have gone beyond an economically justified response to easy policy. House prices fall into this category.”

The suspicion that Kohn says is hard to escape doesn’t appear in the minutes; rather, it only appears in the transcripts that were released on Friday. While the House debated a measure to authorize an audit of the Fed, Kohn personally lobbied against it. He has since announced his resignation.

The president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Cathy Minehan, also voiced concerns. “New England’s rate of inflation, as measured by the Boston CPI, is rising much faster than the nation’s, largely because of a 6.3 percent increase in shelter costs versus a year ago. The high price of housing worries many in the region who find that hiring the skilled workers they need in health care, for example, is made even more difficult by high housing costs,” she said. While conceding that raising interest rates could come with its own risks, she argued: “I think the costs to us in terms of credibility would be greater if the situation got out of hand on the upside.”

Even Tim Geithner, then president of the New York Fed, raised concerns. “[T]he issue has been raised by [Federal Open Market Committee] Vice Chairman Geithner and others that our current policy stance may contribute to potential financial imbalances down the road,” then-Vice Chairman Ben Bernanke said, according to the transcript, before dismissing such concerns. (“Imbalance,” of course, is a gentle term to describe what the housing crash ultimately wrought.)

Three months later, participants at the June meeting were still concerned. Stephen Oliner, the Fed’s associate research director, showed the committee a chart of the growing disparity between home and rent prices, the most obvious indication of a housing bubble. Roger Ferguson, a Fed vice chairman, asked about a footnote in the chart that said the graph had been adjusted to reflect biases in the trends, according to the transcript. Oliner described the adjustments as “technical.”

“Had we not adjusted for them, the rent-to-price ratio would have been much lower at the end point. So it would have looked more alarming,” he said. Oliner also flipped the housing line upside down so that it’s not shooting off into the sky and is instead descending. “I don’t want to leave the impression that we think there’s a huge housing bubble. We believe a lot of the rise in house prices is rooted in fundamentals. But even after you account for the fundamentals, there’s a part of the increase that is hard to explain,” said Oliner.

Jeff Lacker, president of the Richmond Federal Reserve Bank, was also curious about the chart. “Just to follow up on what Roger was asking about the panel in chart three on housing valuations. In that panel the relative movement of the two measures is somewhat key to at least the intuitive persuasiveness of the argument that housing might be overvalued,” said Lacker. A laugh was then had by Greenspan and the other committee members about the confusing chart.

“You can’t trust them to do it right!” Greenspan cracked, according to the transcript. No reference to the chart appears in the June minutes.

Instead, the minutes reflect Greenspan and Bernanke’s position that the rise in housing prices was nothing to worry about. Here’s what the Fed’s minutes told the public: “In housing markets, activity had remained at generally high levels, with only a few signs that rising mortgage rates were beginning to hold down sales and construction. There was evidence in some areas that inventories of unsold homes had risen. Members noted that persisting overall strength in housing might to some extent be a response to expectations of further increases in mortgage rates, implying that a slowdown might be likely later in the year.”

The 2004 transcripts can be found here. If you spot anything else worth highlighting, let me know at ryan@huffingtonpost.com.

UPDATE: Felix Salmon and Annie Lowrey think that the Greenspan quote above is taken out of context. “Greenspan is weighing in on a debate about Fed transparency — that is, how much the Fed wants to reveal about its thinking on inflationary pressures and monetary policy at that particular moment. He is not talking about whether to let the public in on whether there might be a housing bubble,” writes Lowrey. “This was a meta-discussion about how much to discuss discussions,” writes Salmon. That’s true, but it’s unrealistic to separate general discussions about monetary policy and specific talk about a housing bubble, especially given that it was just aired moments earlier. Indeed, knowledge that there was concern in the Fed about the run-up in housing prices in 2004 is directly and obviously relevant to the debate over monetary policy in general and the debate over transparency. If Greenspan’s best defense is that he would broke no public airing of any dissent, then he can make it. But the fact remains that Greenspan wanted all dissent kept from the public, which includes the housing dissent. His comment is a window into Fed thinking that persists today.

Specifically, Greenspan was debating how quickly the Fed minutes should be released and how detailed they should be about the discussions that led to the decisions made. “Providing a full and accurate record of the meeting seem[s] to require describing the different aspects of your discussion about the risk assessments, the minutes, and economic forecasts,” Fed official Vincent Reinhart tells Greenspan.

The debate was over how transparent to be on all discussions, not just how transparent to be about the debate they were having over transparency. The transcript also shows that the Fed was aware the discussion it was having about transparency in general was a controversial one. “I would also add that reducing the discussion to its bare bones would offer more than a few commentators the opportunity for irony about the Committee’s views on transparency, something I certainly wouldn’t pass up! If you do, I take that as direction on preparing the next set of minutes. That is, I should downplay today’s discussion of your prior discussion of transparency,” Reinhart says, to laughter, according to the transcripts.

Greenspan then responds: “Let me first follow up on your transparency assessment. I think Cathy Minehan has raised an interesting point. I would say this: We run the risk, by laying out the pros and cons of a particular argument, of inducing people to join in on the debate, and in this regard it is possible to lose control of a process that only we fully understand. We have a ratchet in here where, if we were to move forward, we can’t go back. So the concept of transparency is a very important concept but one that should be approached with a recognition that we cannot move back and forth on it. I’m a little concerned here that by raising certain issues we may not be able to backtrack.”

But even more to the point, the minutes of the March and June meetings do not accurately reflect the concerns raised in the transcripts about housing that were released more than five years later.