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“Review: Bethany McLean, Shaky Ground: The Strange Saga of the U.S. Mortgage Giants”

The National Book Review By James I. Kaplan

Consumer spending is the bulwark of the U.S. economy, and housing is easily the largest part of what most American consumers spend. But housing is more than that: it is also the linchpin of most Americans’ retirement and long-term economic security, because home equity is by far the biggest part of most households’ net worth – much more than stocks, bonds, and other investments.

The emotional connection of most Americans to their home is also unmatched. Since the early 1900's, immigrants to the United States have known they really made it, and become real Americans, when they scraped together a down payment and qualified for a mortgage on their first house.