he following is excerpted (with some modifications) from former U.S. President George W. Bush's Address to the Nation on September 24, 2008: Other additions are sourced later in the article or in the main article.
The problems we are witnessing today developed over a long period of time. For more than a decade, a massive amount of money flowed into the United States from investors abroad. This large influx of money to U.S. banks and financial institutions — along with low interest rates — made it easier for Americans to get credit. Easy credit — combined with the faulty assumption that home values would continue to rise — led to excesses and bad decisions. Many mortgage lenders approved ...view middle of the document...
Credit rating agencies gave them high-grade, safe ratings. Two of the leading sellers of mortgage-backed securities were Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Because these companies were chartered by Congress, many believed they were guaranteed by the federal government. This allowed them to borrow enormous sums of money, fuel the market for questionable investments, and put the financial system at risk.
The decline in the housing market set off a domino effect across the U.S. economy. When home values declined and adjustable rate mortgage payment amounts increased, borrowers defaulted on their mortgages. Investors globally holding mortgage-backed securities (including many of the banks that originated them and traded them among themselves) began to incur serious losses. Before long, these securities became so unreliable that they were not being bought or sold. Investment banks such as Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers found themselves saddled with large amounts of assets they could not sell. They ran out of the money needed to meet their immediate obligations and faced imminent collapse. Other banks found themselves in severe financial trouble. These banks began holding on to their money, and lending dried up, and the gears of the American financial system began grinding to a halt.
]Stages of the crisis
The crisis has gone through stages. First, during late 2007, over 100 mortgage lending companies went bankrupt as subprime mortgage-backed securities could no longer be sold to investors to acquire funds. Second, starting in Q4 2007 and in each quarter since then, financial institutions have recognized massive losses as they adjust the value of their mortgage backed securities to a fraction of their purchased prices. These losses as the housing market continued to deteriorate meant that the banks have a weaker capital base from which to lend. Third, during Q1 2008, investment bank Bear Stearns was hastily merged with bank JP Morgan with $30 billion in government guarantees, after it was unable to continue borrowing to finance its operations.
Fourth, during September 2008, the system approached meltdown. In early September Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, representing $5 trillion in mortgage obligations, were nationalized by the U.S. government as mortgage losses increased. Next, investment bank Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy. In addition, two large U.S. banks (Washington Mutual and Wachovia) became insolvent and were sold to stronger banks. The world's largest insurer, AIG, was 80% nationalized by the U.S. government, due to concerns regarding its ability to honor its obligations via a form of financial insurance called credit default swaps....