Friday, May 19, 2017

Robert Shiller blames housing bubbles on get rich quick flipper narratives, still completely misses the tax angle

Here, in The New York Times:

There is still no consensus on why the last housing boom and bust happened. That is troubling, because that violent housing cycle helped to produce the Great Recession and financial crisis of 2007 to 2009. We need to understand it all if we are going to be able to avoid ordeals like that in the future.

Ordinary Americans were suddenly able to make a lot of money by flipping their homes because of the tax law changes of 1997. Capital that was previously locked-up in housing by the rules of the New Deal until 1997 was suddenly unleashed to slosh around in the economy when lawmakers gave homeowners the right to avoid most capital gains on the sale of their homes as long as they lived in them only two years. Until 1997, if you didn't buy a more expensive home after you sold yours, you were exposed to a tax hit, unless you took the option of a once in a lifetime exclusion on the gain. The old arrangement had insured, along with the 30-year mortgage, that housing capital built up over a long period of time, creating forced savings for the middle class which could be safely liquidated in retirement without adversely affecting the housing market.

The Republican and Democrat geniuses who ran our government in 1997 changed all that, and within ten years the dang thing blew up. Yeah, I'm talking about you, Bill Clinton, and you, Newt Gingrich.

Too bad Robert Shiller still doesn't get it.

It would probably be unwise to turn back the tax clock now that the damage has been done, but the reinflation of the housing bubble after the crisis wasn't inevitable. The Fed's unprecedented zero interest rate policy has been responsible for that.

When the next housing crash comes, we'll probably not understand it either.

Meanwhile, the median sales price of homes in the aggregate has never been higher, or more unaffordable, and remains the primary driver of wealth inequality in America. 

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