Do you thing Bush and Republicans are responsible for the subprime meltdown? Well not quite. It goes back to Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Yet another story of Democratic road to hell paved with good intentions:
But the fact is, President Bush in 2003 tried desperately to stop Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from metastasizing into the problem they have since become.
Here’s the lead of a New York Times story on Sept. 11, 2003: “The Bush administration today recommended the most significant regulatory overhaul in the housing finance industry since the savings and loan crisis a decade ago.”
Bush tried to act. Who stopped him? Congress, especially Democrats with their deep financial and patronage ties to the two government-sponsored enterprises, Fannie and Freddie.
“These two entities — Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — are not facing any kind of financial crisis,” said Rep. Barney Frank, then ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee. “The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing.”
“If Congress does not act,” McCain said in 2005, “American taxpayers will continue to be exposed to the enormous risk that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pose to the housing market, the overall financial system and the economy as a whole.”
Sounds like McCain was spot on.
But his warnings, too, were ignored by Congress.
To hear today’s Democrats, you’d think all this started in the last couple years. But the crisis began much earlier. The Carter-era Community Reinvestment Act forced banks to lend to uncreditworthy borrowers, mostly in minority areas.
Age-old standards of banking prudence got thrown out the window. In their place came harsh new regulations requiring banks not only to lend to uncreditworthy borrowers, but to do so on the basis of race.
These well-intended rules were supercharged in the early 1990s by President Clinton. Despite warnings from GOP members of Congress in 1992, Clinton pushed extensive changes to the rules requiring lenders to make questionable loans.
Lenders who refused would find themselves castigated publicly as racists.
In the name of diversity, banks began making huge numbers of loans that they previously would not have. They opened branches in poor areas to lift their CRA ratings.
Meanwhile, Congress gave Fannie and Freddie the go-ahead to finance it all by buying loans from banks, then repackaging and securitizing them for resale on the open market.
That’s how the contagion began.
With those changes, the subprime market took off. From a mere $35 billion in loans in 1994, it soared to $1 trillion by 2008.
Wall Street eagerly sold the new mortgage-backed securities. Not only were they pooled investments, mixing good and bad, but they were backed with the implicit guarantee of government.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac grew to become monsters, accounting for nearly half of all U.S. mortgage loans. At the time of their bailouts this month, they held $5.4 trillion in loans on their books. About $1.4 trillion of those were subprime.
As they grew, Fannie and Freddie grew heavily involved in “community development,” giving money to local housing rights groups and “empowering” the groups, such as ACORN, for whom Barack Obama once worked in Chicago.
Warning signals were everywhere. Yet at every turn, Democrats in Congress halted attempts to stop the madness. It happened in 1992, again in 2000, in 2003 and in 2005. It may happen this year, too.
Since 1989, Fannie and Freddie have spent an estimated $140 million on lobbying Washington. They contributed millions to politicians, mostly Democrats, including Senator Chris Dodd (No. 1 recipient) and Barack Obama (No. 3 recipient, despite only three years in office).
A vote for Obama is a vote of a turkey voting for Christmas…