Much has already been written about the day-long summit hosted by NAR at our recent mid-year meetings in Washington DC. To date over 240 separate media pieces have been done on the event and that doesn’t count blogs, tweets, FaceBook, etc. It is estimated that in one form or another information from the summit reached an audience of 67 million people and would have cost many millions of dollars to buy the kind of exposure garnered from the one day event. Follow this link for some video clips of the summit: Real Estate Summit: Advancing The U.S. Economy.
Because I have pages and pages of notes, I’m going to split this into a series of posts covering the morning session, afternoon session and featured speakers that included Dr. Alan Greenspan, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan and FDIC Chair Sheila Bair.
I’ll start this series of posts with a few personal observations:
- The most popular term currently in vogue amongst the media and beltway cognoscenti is “Green Shoots”.Every time we turned around somebody was talking about ‘Green Shoots’, and not in reference to environmental mania, for a change, although there is certainly no shortage of environmental mania going on there. AlGore is only a laughing stock outside the beltway – to those on the inside he is an esteemed senior statesman and scholar whose pronouncements on global climate change are revered with the credibility accorded to somebody who really has a clue. It’s a strange stew that swirls around our capitol city.
- It was generally agreed that there were almost too many panelists. Both morning and afternoon sessions featured 14 + participants each. Nearly every one of the panelists was a recognized figure from either the business, media, finance, political or housing industries and had something to contribute to the dialogue. Problem was, with so many sharing the stage it was difficult to engage them in any detail nor did the format lend itself to debate. NAR recognized the problem and attributed the glut of fine speakers to the fact that EVERYBODY they invited actually showed up. Normally you invite 20 people hoping to get 6 or 8 without prior commitments. The fact that this was the first event of it’s kind, it was held n Washington DC and there was media exposure out the wazoo, participants were eager to see and be seen.
- My own take, aside from the format limiting the opportunity for panelist interaction and debate, was that the panel was also somewhat homogeneous. Everybody seemed to be in almost synchronous lock-step in their positive outlook or what panelist termed ‘inside the beltway group-think’. In contrast to what we heard in other forums and general media discussion, nobody stood up and said ‘Wait a minute – this ain’t working’. Even the one or two cautionary words about the exploding deficit and future impact on the market and interest rates was very muted. I don’t know if that was by design or happenstance but for me it did lessen the credibility of the summit to a small degree. Or maybe everything really is rosy and I’m the only one.
- Alan Greenspan is very old. At times I have admired the good Doctor and at other times I have been very critical of his policies and their impact on the market. It should be noted – he doesn’t care what I think. He doesn’t really care what anybody thinks at this point – when asked if some of his policies or pronouncements may have contributed to the problem in some way, we was quick to dismiss any criticism of interest rate manipulation or other issues. While he was quick to back up his defense with statistics, I found some of them to be very self-serving and probably somewhat suspect (and have written about that in the past). But nobody was going to stand up and take him to task on the specifics. After all, he was a paid guest and that would have been impolite and impolitic. He is indeed brilliant and, while this doesn’t always mean he’s right, it does give a greater gravitas to his pronouncements.
- Washington DC is in the throes of Obama-mania. From the perspective of someone separated by a continent from the ‘insiders’ as well as someone who didn’t buy into the hype in the first place – it is an interesting and amazing phenomenon. It’s like one giant love-fest around town. Everybody’s in love with the Obama’s. Ooooh, did you hear Obama said this or that? Ooooh, Michelle and her friends went here for hot dogs. Ooooh, he has such a common touch. There are entire stores set up to cater to all things Obama. Shirts, books, hats, shot glasses, you name it – they got it Obama. I suspect BoBama’s doggie doodies will be available in lucite bookends by summer. It’s enough to make a Republican gag. From some remove where there are more critical eyes, the whole hopey-changey thing is just a bumper sticker. In DC it’s not just a slogan but a mantra and one that wears out pretty quick. Again, that’s probably just me. No doubt the HUD Secretary and the FDIC Chair (two featured speakers) owe their livelihood to the current administration – they’re expected to toe the line but it’s far more pervasive and insidious than that.