John Bogle (“Help for Mortgage Holders Is What We Need”) isn’t the only influential voice saying that the government needs to focus more on mortgage owners if it wants to restore order to the economy. In Fortune’s 2009 investment preview, Wilbur Ross says that “homeowners have now lost $5 trillion, and 12 million families have mortgages in excess of the value of their homes. Therefore the economy will not stabilize until mortgages are adjusted down to the value of homes, with affordable payment schedules, and until new mortgages become available across the home-price spectrum.” Until that happens, Ross says, consumer spending, which drives the U.S. economy, won’t turn around.
Ross knows a thing or two about turnarounds. As the chairman of W.L. Ross & Co., he has made billions by buying up beaten-up companies and breathing new life into them. Back in March, he bought H&R Block’s beaten-up mortgage servicer Option One for more than a billion dollars, and now he says he currently sees other values in other distressed financials that are “very, very cheap”. He says those too afraid to buy equities should look at tax-exempt bonds that yield about 6 percent, or, if they are worried about coming inflation, Treasury inflation-protected securities (TIPS),
Ross also hopes the Federal Reserve will incentivize lenders to rework mortgages by guaranteeing half of the reduced principal amount and sharing among the government, homeowners, and lenders any appreciation that follows. And, he says, addressing rising unemployment is “paramount”.