Well there certainly are a lot of opinions in the news media out there concerning the economy, lenders, recession, etc...

Let's just apply some common sense for the moment.

Consumer spending drives the economy. But what drives consumer spending? Lot's of things, but here are my thoughts. In the last 6 years, we've had rapidly rising home values. Any of you reading this that have bought or owned homes from 2001-2006 have yourselves felt the sense of security that came from knowing you had appreciating real estate to "back you up."

To compound this confidence in real estate appreciation, the last 6 years have held unprecedented recklessness in spending. Spending is good, but reckless spending is bad. Numerous statistics point to American's inability to independently save, plan for retirement, or spend less money than they make. In fact, we spend more money than we make, by an average of 20-30%.

But, it was all "OK" because of rising home equity. Go ahead! Run up the credit card debts! Bolster the stocks of the companies gladly taking the money you don't really have! What does it matter if John and Jane make 40k a year together and got a 100% stated income loan on a 500k house if they can pull out a HELOC 6 months later that will make their mortgage payments for the next 3 years? Who wouldn't want to "ride the snake?"

The point is the equity has dried up, and is going backwards in most markets. Although we've felt major fallout from prices and lending guidelines, we have not felt the worst of it. You haven't even seen the brunt of the mortgage problem, because it will not show itself as explicitly or as quickly as a foreclosure or short sale.

No equity or ability to tap it means we have one of three options:

  1. Focus paying off the debt we ran up in the last couple years
  2. Stop buying so we don't fall into the plight of the debt-ridden
  3. Charge off the debt which ultimately damages stocks and further hampers one's ability to spend in the future.

Bottom line, you haven't yet seen the degree to which consumer "participation" in this economy will decrease.

The majority of a certain demographic of consumers are just now beginning to see they are on the hook for their debt and don't really have a windfall of home equity to help them pay it off. For them, just as it has been for the lending community, it's "back to basics." Incur a debt, pay it off. So on and so forth. The only problem is that the DJIA reflects a consumer that was able to incur more debt than they were able to pay off by the sheer virtue of their paychecks.

The rug has been pulled out from under those consumers. This massive chunk of the populace, even if they don't succumb to grim fates of short sale, bankruptcy or foreclosure are still not going to be able to participate in the economy to the same extent as they did when home equity was rising.

There is a delayed effect! They gradually feel the squeeze of increasing debt and seek consolidation loans only to find out they don't qualify because of home values or credit tightening. They will not foreclose. They will not go bankrupt. They will simply stop spending money. The immediate signals of foreclosures and bank write downs are here, but the above mentioned gradual effect is just beginning.

These people stop spending money and the economy suffers. I haven't heard any of the experts say just how bad it really is going to be.

Regardless of impassioned predictions by "experts," try evaluating the above facts and listen to what your common sense tells you. All of that "play money" that the average Joe had in the last 6 years is gone.

Stop the recession prognostications, please! Whether or not we're in, out, or going to be in a recession all depends on your definition. 10 years looking back, late 2007 through 2009 will be viewed as a recession. For all the predictions and opinions, mortgage brokers are in a unique position to see this direct cause and effect relationship between debt consolidation and consumer spending. Lower values and ability to tap them lead to consumer debt NOT being consolidated. That debt not being consolidated leads to lower consumer spending and confidence. That lower participation will continue to slow the economy. End of story.

We would do better to occupy our time discussing how we can create positives from this situation as opposed to analyzing why and how it might or might not get better or worse. Any unexpected mitigating factor can change the trend of the economy at any time. So even my commentary here may be rendered invalid at any time. Instead of talking about whether or not the ship is sinking, let's shut up, patch holes where we see them, bail the water where we can, and hope we're still on board when we reach dry land. Then we may have a chance to evaluate our ship's design, and minimize our discussions about its seaworthiness in the future.