Monday, September 22, 2008

Government is the Problem

“From time to time we've been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. Well, if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else?
In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”
-- President Ronald Reagan, First Inaugural Address

Similarly, Jonah Goldberg says, Washington D.C. Officals, Not Wall Street, Are To Blame for Crisis After Turning Blind Eye - New York Post

The self-proclaimed angels in Washington will tell you they've been working tirelessly to expand the American dream of homeownership by making mortgages available to people unable to plunk down 20 percent on a house. Franklin Raines, the Clinton-appointed head of Fannie Mae from 1998 to 2004, made it his top priority to make mortgages easier to get for people with poor credit, few assets and little money for a down payment.

The fine print to this noble intent was an ill-conceived loosening of standards. For instance, the Clinton administration re- interpreted the Community Reinvestment Act to politicize lending practices. Under the CRA, the feds forced banks to prove they weren't "redlining" (i.e., discriminating against minorities) by approving loans to minorities and various left-wing "community groups," bad risks or not.

Sen. Phil Gramm called it a vast extortion scheme against America's banks. Still, the banks were perfectly happy to pass the risky loans to Raines' Fannie Mae, which was happy to buy them up.

That's because Raines was transforming Fannie from a boring but stable institution dedicated to making homes more affordable into a risky venture that abused its special status as a "government sponsored enterprise." Fannie bought the bad loans and bundled them together with good ones. Wall Street was glad to buy up these mortgage securities because Fannie was deemed a government-insured behemoth "too big to fail." And others followed Fannie's lead.

The current crisis stems in large part from the fact that people who shouldn't have been buying a home, or who bought more home than they could afford, now can't pay their bills. Their bad mortgages are mixed up with the good ones. And thanks in part to new post-Enron accounting rules, the bad mortgages have contaminated the whole pile.

Some people warned us. In 2005, Fannie Mae revealed it overstated earnings by $10.6 billion and that it didn't really know what was going on. The Bush administration pushed for reforms, but those efforts were rebuffed by Congress, with Democrats Barney Frank and Christopher Dodd taking point, because Fannie and Freddie have spent millions in campaign contributions.

Republicans, including House Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Minority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., have accepted more contributions than Democrats from PACs connected to Fannie Mae. This might explain why

House GOP leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Republican Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said they "stand ready to work with Secretary Paulson and congressional Democrats to take appropriate steps to ensure the soundness of our mortgage markets."

The government is guilty of more than just "turning a blind eye," as Goldberg says, to a problem that popped out of nowhere. Government is guilty of creating that problem through the Federal Reserve and the manipulation of the credit system.

Giving the government more power to take more money from us to bail out corrupt or incompetent lenders and investors is precisely the opposite direction that we should take.


No comments: