Consider the recent financial crisis and its link to faulty reward systems. President Bill Clinton's objective of increasing homeownership by rewarding potential home buyers and lenders is one example. The Clinton administration "went to ridiculous lengths" to increase homeownership in the United State, promoting "paper-thin down payments" and pushing lenders to give mortgage loans to unqualified buyers according to Business Week editor Peter Coy.
Max H. Bazerman
The government decides to try to increase the middle class by subsidizing things that middle class people have: If middle-class people go to college and own homes, then surely if more people go to college and own homes, we'll have more middle-class people. But homeownership and college aren't causes of middle-class status, they're markers for possessing the kinds of traits - self-discipline, the ability to defer gratification, etc. - that let you enter, and stay, in the middle class. Subsidizing the markers doesn't produce the traits; if anything, it undermines them.
The government decides to try to increase the middle class by subsidizing things that middle class people have: If middle-class people go to college and own homes, then surely if more people go to college and own homes, we'll have more middle-class people. But homeownership and college aren't causes of middle-class status, they're markers for possessing the kinds of traits "" self-discipline, the ability to defer gratification, etc. "" that let you enter, and stay, in the middle class. Subsidizing the markers doesn't produce the traits; if anything, it undermines them.
The overall U.S. homeownership rate increased from 64 percent in 1994 to a peak in 2004 with an all-time high of 69.2 percent. Real estate had become the leading business in America, more and more speculators invested money in the business. During 2006, 22 percent of homes purchased (1.65 million units) were for investment purposes, with an additional 14 percent (1.07 million units) purchased as vacation homes. These figures led Americans to believe that their economy was indeed booming. And when an economy is booming nobody is really interested in foreign affairs, certainly not in a million dead Iraqis. But then the grave reality dawned on the many struggling, working class Americans and immigrants, who were failing to pay back money they didn't have in the first place. Due to the rise in oil prices and the rise of interest rates, millions of disadvantaged Americans fell behind. By the time they drove back to their newly purchased suburban dream houses, there was not enough money in the kitty to pay the mortgage or elementary needs. Consequently, within a very short time, millions of houses were repossessed. Clearly, there was no one around who could afford to buy those newly repossessed houses. Consequently, the poor people of America became poorer than ever. Just as Wolfowitz's toppled Saddam, who dragged the American Empire down with him, the poor Americans, that were set to facilitate Wolfowitz's war, pulled down American capitalism as well as the American monetary and banking system. Greenspan's policy led an entire class to ruin, leaving America's financial system with a hole that now stands at a trillion dollars.