I've been so bold as to edit Prince Charles and the pope, so why not the Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank?

Editing the Fed

Canadian flagI’ve been so bold as to edit Prince Charles and the pope, so why not the Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank?

Consider the Fed’s analysis of Canadian vs. American housing and lending trends.


Why Canada might be “a country that got things right”

The report led off well enough:

Housing markets in the United States and Canada are similar in many respects, but each has fared quite differently since the onset of the financial crisis. A comparison of the two markets suggests that relaxed lending standards likely played a critical role in the U.S. housing bust.

It’s written in easily-understood prose and comes to a succinct conclusion. But if you read the report (and re-read once or twice), you’ll agree that my re-write would have been a better approach, not just by virtue of the writing, but also by virtue of the more comprehensive (and candid) conclusion:

Unlike the U.S., Canada has not experienced a dramatic increase in mortgage defaults, nor has any Canadian bank required a government bailout. This article explores the differences between the two countries’ monetary policies, financial services structure and regulation, and the kinds of mortgage products offered. While the primary culprit behind the American financial services crisis was the rise in subprime loans,  those products, and indeed the housing bubble itself, were enabled by monetary policy and financial services regulation.

Conclusions drive structure

denialAn introduction like this would have led to an entirely different STRUCTURE of the paper, as well.  As written, the Fed meandered through data on housing prices, loan-to-value stats, delinquency rates, central bank target rates, and benchmark mortgage interest rates before getting around to contextualizing them. Most readers’ eyes were glazed over by then.

I would have taken the inverse approach, noting the differences in subprime booms between the countries (and the American bust) and then comparing and contrasting the factors that DROVE those differences, including monetary policy and regulation.  I would also have quoted sociologists on the differences in risk tolerance between us and our “neighbors to the north” as we so often call them.

The Fed is not apolitical, so I guess I should give a nod to the possibility that it was motivated to obfuscate.  Alas, these are the times in which we live.

About Tamela M. Rich

From Charlotte, NC, Tamela writes books, articles, speeches and presentations for business professionals. From "the road" she writes about the people, places and experiences she discovers and the life lessons she learns from them. Invite her to share some of her lessons from the road at your next event!

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