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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Wake Up, America

H/T to Norm Hooben.

From IBD Editorials, October 06, 2008

A nation that doesn't know history is destined to repeat its serious mistakes. People swayed by carefully crafted political propaganda relentlessly repeated and effectively delivered can easily lose their freedom and way of life.

How many times have you been told by soaring, almost hypnotic oratory that "the direct causes of our financial crisis and subprime real estate loan mess were the greedy banks, big corporations and the failed economic policies of George Bush"?

It's common to blame the one in power. This time, however, it's 100% wrong.

Every American, young or old, must be told who was really behind the subprime loan disaster that threw our economy off track and injured the good people who lost their homes — like those now boarded up in Cleveland and other major cities — plus the millions of other citizens hurt by yet another failed Big Government-run program gone awry.

In 1977, Jimmy Carter and a Democrat Congress created the Community Reinvestment Act mandating that banks make more housing loans to lower-income and inner-city borrowers. It was for a well-intended social cause and even appeared to work in the 1980s.

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But in 1995, President Clinton imposed even tougher regulations that forced banks to make dramatically more subprime loans to previously unqualified people with lower credit scores in higher-risk areas.

Government regulators rated banks by how well they performed in meeting these strict new CRA obligations. Failure to comply meant stiff penalties and limits on mergers, acquisitions and expansion.
Big Government forced the lowering of long-proven safe-lending standards. Most of the more than $1 trillion of new subprime CRA loans had adjustable rates. Many required no documentation of the borrower's income and little or no down payment.

For the first time, the Clinton regulatory rules allowed and encouraged lenders to bundle the new, riskier subprime loans with prime loans and sell these packages to other institutions. The first one hit the market in 1997. That tragic blunder let loan originators make their profits faster and eliminate any future risk for those lower-quality loans. It let them turn around and make even more CRA-type loans and sell them off in packages again, with little future risk.

It was a government-sponsored pyramid scheme, with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac providing the implied government backing by buying ever larger amounts of these risky subprimes.

Freddie and Fannie also became heavy donors to top members of Congress. These included Sen. Chris Dodd, a young Sen. Barack Obama and Rep. Barney Frank, who aggressively defended the highly leveraged, extremely risky lending against any reforms.

Ironically, the Bush administration repeatedly went to Congress in 2004, 2005 and 2006 to obtain stronger oversight and some limits on Freddie and Fannie's reckless subprime lending. And each time, it was voted down by Democrats in Congress, led by Frank, now chairman of the Financial Services Committee.

Bottom line: This whole mess was another Big Government program created, designed and run by Democrats. It started with great intentions but resulted in typically awful unintended consequences that materially hurt the very people they were supposed to help.

Worse, this incompetence put our financial system in jeopardy. It's reminiscent of LBJ's two lost wars — the War in Vietnam and the War on Poverty.

Many government housing projects, though well-intended as part of LBJ's War on Poverty, later deteriorated into slums that became recruiting grounds to get very young new gang members.

That's how we got into this financial mess — and why the $700 billion rescue package was passed. But what about the future? What serious threats does America face in the next five years? The list isn't comforting:

Continue reading here.

Norm breaks it down for you here. His commentary in red.

Related reading from Critical Bias titled, "What Caused The Financial Meltdown Part III."