Logical Fallacies and the Financial Crisis [Reader Post]

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I have a friend that has a Masters in Psychology. We usually confine our discussions to beer, softball, women, and beer. The man is a master of manipulation. I have seen him deflect arguments with such skill that the other person walks away in a cloud of befuddlement. Sometimes we discuss politics. I brought up the growing divide in our country and told him I have little hope that we will ever bridge it. He explained to me the nature of this divide and why we may never come together again as a nation. These are the five logical fallacies that prevent us from agreeing.

Argumentative Theory of Reasoning: states that humans didn’t learn to ask questions and offer answers in order to find universal truths. We did it as a way to gain authority over others.

Neglect of Probability: states our brains are great for doing a lot of things. Calculating probability is not one of them.

The Trust Gap: states we just do not trust other people to do the right thing.

Fundamental Attribution Error: states when other people screw up, it’s because they’re stupid or evil. But when we screw up, it’s totally circumstantial.

Confirmation Bias: states our brains weigh information on a position we hold, not based on the logic, but on the emotional and social consequences of that position being wrong.

I bring this up because what I am about to write will not change the mind of a single liberal in the country. If you have not yet read the article, Paul Sperry for the Investor’s Business Daily has the single most damning information yet that the housing bubble, and thus the financial crises rests on the shoulders of the Clinton Administration.

At President Clinton’s direction, no fewer than 10 federal agencies issued a chilling ultimatum to banks and mortgage lenders to ease credit for lower-income minorities or face investigations for lending discrimination and suffer the related adverse publicity. They also were threatened with denial of access to the all-important secondary mortgage market and stiff fines, along with other penalties.

I will not go into a detailed analysis; it is just not my specialty. Mata has done some incredible writing on the crises and explained it much better than I could ever begin. I just ask that you read the article, the policy statement, and Mr. Sperry’s analysis. I will leave some highlights for those too busy to read the full article.

Confronted with the combined force of 10 federal regulators, lenders naturally toed the line, and were soon aggressively marketing subprime mortgages in urban areas. The marching orders threw such a scare into the industry that the American Bankers Association issued a “fair-lending tool kit” to every member. The Mortgage Bankers Association of America signed a “fair-lending” contract with HUD. So did Countrywide.

…It warned lenders who rejected minority applicants with high debt ratios and low credit scores to “be prepared” to prove to federal regulators and prosecutors they weren’t racist. “The Department of Justice is authorized to use the full range of its enforcement authority.”

For my friends on the left, once you have read the article, look back at the five logical fallacies, especially Confirmation Bias. I am not denying there was no greed on the part of the banks or Wall Street. Paul Sperry acknowledges that in his conclusion:

The fair-lending task force’s original policy paper undercuts the notion the financial crisis was all about banker “greed,” though it certainly played a role after the fact. Rather, it offers compelling evidence that the crisis evolved chiefly from government mandates and threats to increase lending to applicants who could not afford them.

But ask yourself one question. What facilitated this greed?

23 Responses to “Logical Fallacies and the Financial Crisis [Reader Post]”

  1. 1

    Nan G

    I am one of probably many who read that article the day it came out.
    I think I linked to it here at FA and quoted a couple of his points here, too.

    I think there is a problem between those who believe in a God and a Fall from Grace/Perfection VS those who do not.

    IF we do not believe in man’s imperfection today, we also don’t believe in the imperfection of man’s creations, including government.
    Therefore liberals (who often deny God) look at government as the solution to all mankind’s problems.
    Even jaded liberals who realize the imperfection of their institutions USE them to gain support from their willing (and greedy) dupes.

    BUT IF we believe that there is a God and that mankind fell from perfection, we also believe that NOTHING we can create can be perfect.
    Including human governments.
    And we know where greed originated from.

  2. 2

    Gary G. Swenchonis

    You can attempt to use reasoning with liberals till the cows come home, but it want work. Period. This is a war that we are involved in now, and have been for decades. The intensity of the war has been ratched up several notches since Obi became King, and the arrival of the Tea Party as well. The reasons why we find our selves in this mess would take a book longer than War and Peace. But in short its not just the liberals fault, its any American who bought in to political correctness at any level, any conservative who made excuses for the Rhinos as they sold our values, traditions, morals, and beliefs down the river, as we Americans quit demanding until just recently that our politicans do as we told them to do, and we all kept doing the same thing over and over hoping that we would get different results, while the liberal politicans were kicking butt, and taking names. Look at the world around us, everything is changing fast and dramatically, and in many cases not for good either. Yet we still have leaders who are acting like its still 1995. Liberals could give a rats butt about logic, look at Greece at this very moment. The liberals are going to sink their own country, and damage other countries just to keep their socialist system. Thats total war, total commitment on the enemys part. Does anyone think for a moment that out liberals will not do the same thing here in a blink of an eye? Look at what they are doing to their own cities and fellow citizens here in America. This is just the beginning of another stage. The liberals have politicians, and a president who is committed to their agenda. The conservatives, many of them are still playing both sides to save their worthless hides, or hiding in the closet. There are many theories in psychology/socialism to explain human behavior, but one theory that has always held water is the theory that when one group of people are pressed hard, they will press back even harder. Especially when that group of people have been getting their way for decades, like the liberals have. Many American are watching in total bewilderment as they see their cities being taken over by thugs as the police, mayors, and politicians hide in fear. And until we get a leader who can put aside political correctness, his political career, and put this country first again we will only see more and more of this. And even with a strong and honest leader we will still have an extremely difficult road to hoe. So in summary logic, and rational thinking play no part for the liberals, except on how to obtain their goals. But thats total war. You have to burn down the town to save it.

  3. 3


    Nan G
    you might be surprise as I find your comment to fit here and in another post saying that OBAMA told CONGRESS they are wasting time praying in GOD WE TRUST,
    that ‘s the first time I notice a double POST comment, if I can call it that.

  4. 4


    I like the rules of your POST, and enough to recopy them by hand,
    I found them very interesting to study.
    thank you, for your good post, very different too.

  5. 5


    @ Gary G. Swenchonis
    This was my first ever reader’s post and the thing messed my name up. By the way, whoever formatted it did awesome. 🙂

    Gary, I agree that there is a war in our country between the left and right. Most wars start because both sides believe they are right. Wars are not always won with force alone, intelligence plays a huge role. You say there is no reasoning with liberals, I don’t necessarily believe that. Last night on The Five, I saw Bob Beckel admit that the financial crisis was a result of congress, not the banks. He did blame banks for being greedy and taking advantage of the situation, but it was still a small victory. Michael “I’m an Independent” Bloomberg blamed congress and not the banks the other day.
    All wars are won by achieving small victories. True, a super-lib has the bully pulpit right now and a willing media accomplice, but this isn’t the 1970s with three network stations and a bunch of liberal papers. We live in the information age.
    As conservatives, I think we have to face a few hard cold facts. After Clinton left office, the “conservatives” in congress started outspending liberals. I blame most of this on Hastert. When Newt left they lost their way. Newt may very well be a social RINO, but he balanced the budget and could have kept it that way. But the liberals in congress, on both sides of the aisle convince everyone else that Newt was too divisive.
    Now we have the TEA Party to correct that mistake. But if we win and set things right, then allow those idiots to make the same mistakes again, we deserve what we get.

  6. 6

    Robert Bell

    While I find your post thoughtful, I don’t think it addresses the similarly thoughtful argument that the GSE’s and government policy did *not* cause the crisis, which is essentially that the problem loans that were securitized were *not* the ones Democrats would like to have seen made. The important point is that is that you can’t argue this on a logical basis alone. Both government meddling and dysfunctional financial products are plausible explanations.

    See, for example, here:




    and the chart here:

  7. 7


    @ Robert Bell
    I take it you didn’t read the article Robert?
    or the policy statement the article refers to? Here’s some analysis of the policy statement:

    It warned lenders who rejected minority applicants with high debt ratios and low credit scores to “be prepared” to prove to federal regulators and prosecutors they weren’t racist. “The Department of Justice is authorized to use the full range of its enforcement authority.”

    Banks bundling loans and derivatives is just as much congress’ fault as it is the banks. Congress passed the laws that allowed this to take place. Banks are going to find a way to make money, it is what they do. Glass-Steagall would have prevented much of the crises, but it was repealed on Clinton’s watch by a huge bipartisan vote:

    After passing both the Senate and House the bill was moved to a conference committee to work out the differences between the Senate and House versions. The final bill resolving the differences was passed in the Senate 90–8 (one not voting) and in the House: 362–57 (15 not voting). The legislation was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on November 12, 1999.

  8. 8

    Robert Bell

    @Aqua: Thanks for your reply.

    I did read the article, though it doesn’t specifically address the crux in the argument in the links I sent, which is the dramatic increase of private lending circa 2003 that was not covered by the regulations or regulators in question. Those loans/structures were not initially sold to the GSE’s and were more than sufficient to create enough bad structured products so that the balance sheets of major banks were no longer trustworthy. Obviously the assumption is that rather than being a continuous process of moving to the precipice from 1994 on, the financial innovation of the early 2000’s and the subsequent rollout / market penetration represented something different.

    Not that this constitutes a defense for the GSE’s. I’m not aware of similar agencies in any other developed economy, and I don’t understand why we wouldn’t just let the private housing market, lending market, and mortgage insurance markets price and allocate those goods and services.

    There was an article in the WSJ by Charles Calomiris the other day pointing to work Viral Acharya et al that may paint a different picture which I haven’t read yet (a review of Acharya’s new book is here http://www.economist.com/node/21532248)

  9. 9


    @ Robert Bell
    I think I see what you are saying. There is a much better analysis of the overall cause of the housing/financial crisis by Mata that you can read here:

    As for the article in this post, it does not go into as much detail. However, I believe it does have the smoking gun, just as it states. I understand the increase in private lending and that it may have been a contributing factor. I remember when I bought my house in 2005, all the different loan programs the mortgage company had, interest only, no down payments, 50 year loans, one that had a 15 year/ 15 balloon loan. You mortgage the house for 15 years at a 30 year term and have a balloon payment after 15 years. I bought what I could afford if the interest rates were 7% and a 30 mortgage. Then I got the interest only loan at 3%, but was making double payments. I was lucky that I saw the end coming in time to refinance a 30 year term.
    I think the point of the article is that even the private lending can be traced back to the policy statement issued by the Clinton administration. It basically encouraged banks to make these kinds of loans.

  10. 10



    Robert Bell, while there were some exotic loans that ended up in the GSE portfolio… who was mandated by Congress in 1999 to increase their balance sheets to what would turn out to be unstable levels… most of the low doc, no doc and stated income loans were securitized, packaged up with standard risk loans, and sold on the secondary market outside the GSEs. This isn’t an uncommon practice since the GSEs never have held all the loans anyway.

    The point I think that you are missing is that banks, in order to merge and grow, were mandated to comply with CRA regulations done in the back room of Clinton’s Treasury admin just before the GOP took control of both chambers in 1995. When having enough of those “challenged” borrowers on the books requires giving the loans, and they do not meet the guideline criteria originally set by the GSEs, they created new types of loans to facilitate these borrowers… i.e. the low doc, no doc and stated income loans. It was not long after their creation in the mid to late 90s that the GSE’s lowered their standards, so many of these loans could also become part of the Fannie/Freddie portfolios.

    That said, these loans were financial tools. And like any tool, it can be used wisely, or abused, by those wielding the tool… in this case, the borrowers themselves. It would be inaccurate to state that all of those using these loans were committing fraud or deliberately over leveraging themselves. Many investors, and well as primary home purchasers, used these when their particular instances prohibited a standard prime loan approval… such as not long enough on a job, relocation, doing a buy and bail (purchasing a new home before selling the old one), a credit dispute, etc…. and have not defaulted. Wise use just meant that they weren’t purchasing outside of their ability to maintain the payments.

    The same with ARM loans, which also was a useful financial tool if you weren’t planning on holding the property for more than a stated number of years… whether for investment or a planned relocation.

    However too many borrowers saw the ability to game the system, and purchase outside of their ability to pay long term… assuming continued employment and income at the current time. ARM loans and resets are explained, but too many didn’t want to hear it. They just figured they would refinance into another ARM loan before the reset, and continue to enjoy perpetual low ARM rates.

    Well, that didn’t work, because all the easy money with no qualifications… held by both the GSEs and private secondary market entities… flooded the existing inventory of homes with new, eager buyers. That over demand, compared to supply, led to the unnatural and unsustainable increase in home prices – made especially heinous by both Greenspan and Bernanke’s continued low Fed rates.

    And it’s the home prices and low rates that pounded the final nail into the coffin. Refinancing when your home value has gone down, and not up, isn’t generally in the cards. And most people thought homes never decrease…. right. History is a lost art these days.

    The odds are that even those who have not defaulted on their loans today are sustaining a toxic mortgage every month, and that piper has to be paid when they eventually sell. The first round of TARP bailouts and Treasury purchase of toxic mortgages is only the beginning.

    This brings me to this observation…

    Not that this constitutes a defense for the GSE’s. I’m not aware of similar agencies in any other developed economy, and I don’t understand why we wouldn’t just let the private housing market, lending market, and mortgage insurance markets price and allocate those goods and services.

    I agree that the government should not have.. in the past, or even in the future… be dictating to lenders criteria and minimums for loans. However that is exactly what they did with the CRA changes. Now Congress thinks they can cure the woes they, themselves, begat with mandates of a minimal downpayment and other criteria.

    The problem with government is they are dabbling in a field of expertise where they are clueless (as they usually do…). The more they try to help, the more they increase the deficit/debt. Attempting to stop foreclosures and stave off the inevitable by attempts to reinflate the bubble are foolhardy. Fact is, house prices have to come down for two reasons…

    1: Home prices have far outpaced income increases and
    2: The Feds have to have the ability to raise and lower prime rates to control inflation, without worrying about destroying the housing market in the process.

    I’m going to post the same chart I used in my 2008 “Perfect Storm” post that Aqua referenced in his original post, but updated thru 2011. This is a view of US home prices from 1970 to 2011… both nominal and adjusted for inflation.

    You need only look at when the increase of home prices, steady and non-stop, began… just after the CRA regulation changes. As of 1998, that trajectory was headed straight up, blooming first by Clinton’s aggressive housing policies that were continued by Bush.

    As you can see, not only have the Obama admin’s attempt to re inflate the bubble failed, and was taxpayer money down the drain, but the average home is still $20-40K above an inflation adjusted value… most especially when you consider a recessionary era. Not only do the home prices still need to decrease, they are going to… despite a meddling Congress and POTUS. It is a natural market correction that would have happened sooner than later, were not for government intervention.

    What most people tend to overlook when analyzing this fiscal policy is they try to tie only one type of loan to the crisis, and one class of person. This is not how it went down. Some is from irresponsible borrowers, with eyes bigger than their wallets. Others are those who saw the equity increase astronomically, and decided to use their house as a piggy bank in a refinance… spending every bit of that cash on anything other than improving their asset… dumb move. Even others simply needed to relocate when the market was at it’s peak, and now find themselves unable to sell without bringing cash to the closing table.

    It’s going to be a long, tough road out of this ditch…. and even longer if the government continues to “help”. But I see no way that there isn’t another, if not several, waves of short sales and foreclosures in the future… as well as banks in trouble… simply because of the high percentage of loans on the books are over leveraged (even if the borrower is current on their payments).

    Here’s another thing to digest that’s real. If an owner is current on his/her payments, and simply wants to sell for sundry reasons, the bank will not accept a short sale unless they are in the arrears. Since going in the arrears, merely to dump an over leveraged house, ruins the home owners’ credit, it’s a self defeating endeavor if they are trying to buy. Others see it as their only way out of the burden, and choose to become renters until their credit is repaired. Their only other option is they have to have the cash to make up the difference between today’s market price, and their loan payoff.

    A genuine clusterf*#k, no doubt. And every bit of it manufactured by those in Congress and the WH over many POTUS terms. Few are without culpability.

  11. 11


    I bring this up because what I am about to write will not change the mind of a single liberal in the country.

    What is tacitly revealed by the foregoing statement is a presumption of personal immunity to logical fallacies 1 through 5. The presumption of immunity is necessarily extended to fellow conservatives as well.

    Since I’m as likely to be subject to the fallacies as the next person, however, I suppose I could be wrong.

  12. 12

    Gary G. Swenchonis

    @Aqua: I hope you did not think that I was criticizing your post, I was not. As a matter of fact I enjoyed it very much so. Psychology/criminal Justice were both my fields and I still enjoy reading articles/posts related to psychology/criminal justice and how their influence on societies as a whole and the individual. Also, thanks for your reply. I agree with what you said. But I also think that we all have a collective responsibility for letting our society become what it is today. I just read a ram. poll that stated that 79% of Americans believe that Political Correctness is hurting our nation. People are waking up like you said. But the amount of damage that the liberals and their agenda has caused this nation cannot all be undone for many reasons. Yes we can re-gain semi control again of a few areas in our government. But our own government has become permeated with the liberal agenda, policies, and people over the past decades so our government is now the enemy so to speak. I have a major disagreement when people (not you)call me negative for mentioning and or pointing out the enemies strenghts, when in reality change can only take place when the individual knows whats wrong on the most basic level. Thats why most people never really change, they fear to conduct a complete self-examination, and or to speak about those faults, let alone take any long term constructive action in correcting them. The same whole true for societies with some major exceptions of course. What the liberals are doing now and have been is really a war of subservision which paves the way for the revolution. Wars of suberversion have no face, no identity. They are ment to be that way to confuse the population, and make it more difficult for the powers to be to confront the ring leaders.They take hostages like the cities the liberals now control in small areas, at first. They the liberals have replaced many of our traditional beliefs, laws, morals and customs with their own twisted beliefs at the most basic levels. Our schools, churches, religions, government, etc… Now when such actions like we are watching unfold in our cities would have been confronted immediately with force, and the protesters broken up, and law and order restored, there is only apathy and fear on the part of our leaders, and police. What was once abnormal behavior is now seen and accepted as normal behavior. That is why I reserve more anger for the RHINOS and gutless politicians then the liberals themselves. We can elect more Rhinos till we are blue in the face, and they can in turn continue to compromise and sell our country out with the liberals which they will. Thats why you cannot use reason with liberals, they know our weakness. Its our own leaders. Liberals do not for the most part compromise, they attack and attack and win more concessions, death by a thousand cuts. And we will not make any worthwhile gains till we as a society realize that the professional politician has to be voted out and replaced with forceful, intelligent, and successful citizens if we are to ever re-gain control of our conservative values, and our childrens destiny. Thats the revolution I am working for.

  13. 13

    John Cooper

    @Gary G. Swenchonis: A most excellent post, sir. In a society, there are only two possible ways for one person to deal with others: 1. By reason and persuasion, or 2. By force. The dirty little secret which no progressive will admit to himself is that they have chosen method number two. To a progressive, a man has no right to exist if he refuses to serve society (led by them, of course).

    The conservatives, unfortunately, never seem to understand the nature of the evil they are fighting.

  14. 14


    Another part of this story is how banks created and used CDO’s and other insured structured mortgage securities to turn those sour minority lemon loans into lemonade. A Nobel prize was awarded for the false math behind the these CDO’s. And like Obama’s, they were not deserved.

    As a result, the low low standards intended only for Obama’s friends were made available to all borrowers.

    So a disease which might have been withstood if it only applied to minorities spread to become the dominant form of speculative borrowing in hot housing markets, made hot by the influx of money.

    Doesn’t change the root cause, merely explains how it became a disaster of unintended consequence of central planning and “social justice”.

  15. 15

    Gary G. Swenchonis

    @John Cooper: Thanks John! “To a progressive, a man has no right to exist if he refuses to serve society (led by them, of course).” A Truism for sure! What these idiots don’t understand and or refuse to believe is that their current Masters will stay as their New Masters even after the revolution is won. The libdems politicians and Obi who encouraging their foot soldiers in the war on poverty will keep their positions of power, and increase their wealth. While the average socialist footsoldier will be just another number with the same rights, the same pay, the same hovel, the same government car, the same worthless government education, the same crappy health care, but they will be equal! And your point John on the conservatives don’t understand the evil they are fighting is true and false to me. For some of the airheads we see and have to listen to there is no doubt that they don’t understand what they/we are up against. But for some of our leaders I think they play the game for one thing only, greed and power. These republicans are worse than their liberal counterparts to me. These liberal republicans will be like those in all the other governments that succumbed to socialism/communism, they will sell us out and then convert to liberalism when its needed for them to survive in their positions of power and money. I would name names but I am more than sure that someone would post back how he/them or bonafide conservatives. I do think that their is still a large segement of the population that still believes that nothing is wrong, which is an hughe bonus to the liberals. They fail to understand that things will only continue to get worse. But then this ignorance and or denial plays right into the socialist handbook, “they must in part be confused and unaware of the significance of the changes that are occurring in their little world, until they wake up one morning to our new world.”

  16. 16

    Gary G. Swenchonis

    @MataHarley: A genuine clusterf*#k, no doubt. And every bit of it manufactured by those in Congress and the WH over many POTUS terms. Few are without culpability. Right on Mata!!!!

  17. 17


    @ Gary G. Swenchonis
    Hi Gary, I did not take anything as a negative. I understand exactly what you were saying. I don’t think all liberals are beyond help, but we have certainly seen some, even on this blog that will never be able to be reasoned with.
    One thing that I find frustrating is the unwillingness of conservatives to push for and accept small victories. Liberals did not get us into this position overnight, and we will not remake it overnight. So pushing an all or nothing agenda does not always help our cause.

  18. 19


    And let’s be honest here. While Democrats deserve the lion’s share of the blame, GW Bush and his “compassionate conservatism” was right in line here.

    He too believed that universal home ownership was within grasp and within government’s ability to create… here are some quotes from GWB:

    We’re creating… an ownership society in this country, where more Americans than ever will be able to open up their door where they live and say, welcome to my house, welcome to my piece of property.
    Remarks to the National Association of Home Builders, Columbus, Ohio, October 2, 2004

    I’m asking Congress to pass my Zero Down Payment Initiative. We should remove the 3 percent down payment rule for first time home buyers with FHA-insured mortgages.
    Remarks to the National Association of Home Builders, Columbus, Ohio, October 2, 2004

    Now, that said, he also pushed unsuccessfully for more oversight into Freddie and Fannie and their multi-trillion funding of sub-prime mortgages… which proved disastrous for the global economy.

  19. 21



    @RS, FHA and low down mortgages have been around for decades… .and not the problem. USDA and VA… both with zero down requirements and both (until just this past month) sans mortgage insurance as well. USDA has now added MI. State VA loans are also adding MI, but are generally lower mortgage rates than the federal VA loans with just an upfront funding fee, and no MI.

    There is nothing wrong with minimal down under the right circumstances and with with qualified buyers. Nor should Congress be meddling in lender criteria, dictating x amount of down either.

    As I said, the lack of equity or low equity became the problem when the housing prices unnaturally increased, doomed to fall. FHA and USDA mortgages were not the leaders in default. In fact, you really can’t consider any particular loan type as the sole reason. Fact is, the foreclosure process has been around for eons as well. When a home is foreclosed on, and not a toxic asset, another qualified buyer goes in and no harm, no foul. Our problem is, with the astronomical increases, homes with $300K mortgages were foreclosed on, and really only worth about $225K… meaning all the banks and secondary markets were eating toxic asset waste. ergo… TARP and the bail outs

  20. 23


    @ Greg

    What is tacitly revealed by the foregoing statement is a presumption of personal immunity to logical fallacies 1 through 5. The presumption of immunity is necessarily extended to fellow conservatives as well.

    You were close. I put that in there for a reason, but it was to demonstrate #3, the Trust Gap.

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