Wednesday, September 17, 2008

House of cards built on faulty foundation

As the financial markets roil with the latest developments Democrats like Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank and even Barack Obama are distancing themselves from the legacy of policies they have endorsed or proposed. They try to blame this mess on Bush’s last 8 years where in fact the roots of this dilemma go back to Clinton and earlier. As this article in Investor’s Business Daily says the main motive of the policies leading up to this was to provide people without good credit ratings to buy homes. So lenders were strong armed into lending to risks they normally wouldn’t have to avoid the wrath of the regulators.

The regulation grew to monstrous proportions during the Clinton administration, obsessed as it was with multiculturalism. Amendments to the CRA [Community Reinvestment Act] in the mid-1990s dramatically raised the amount of home loans to otherwise unqualified low-income borrowers.

The revisions also allowed for the first time the securitization of CRA-regulated loans containing subprime mortgages. The changes came as radical "housing rights" groups led by ACORN lobbied for such loans. ACORN at the time was represented by a young public-interest lawyer in Chicago by the name of Barack Obama.

HUD, in turn, pressured Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to purchase more subprime mortgages, and Fannie and Freddie, in turn, donated to the campaigns of leading Democrats like Barney Frank and Pelosi who throttled investigations into fraud at the agencies.

The problem is that all of us will pay for the sins of these policies while the true perpetrators pontificate about the greed of Wall Street and the “failure” of the market. Most people don’t understand economics (like many politicians) so it’s appallingly easy to throw “bad guys” (i.e., Wall Street) as chum into the water. Meanwhile the true lesson will be lost in this feeding frenzy: when the government tries to force the market to behave in a certain way to achieve egalitarian goals this goal to make everyone equal indeed does becomes reality but not in the way that was intended. We’re all made equal – in terms of financial losses and the pain that goes with it. Instead of a rising tide of prosperity lifting all of our boats we’re drowning in the rising tide of tears and pain, the inevitable consequences of bad premises.

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