Getting it and getting away with it 0

Investor’s Business Daily reports that Alan Greenspan “gets it” – which should not come as a surprise considering he was Chairman of the Federal Reserve for nearly 20 years – and recaps what happened that made America and the world poorer.

Testifying before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, the former Fed chairman told some plain truths he didn’t dare utter when he headed the central bank. Most notably, Greenspan implied it was Congress’ meddling incompetence — not the Fed, or free markets, or greedy bankers — that created the financial meltdown. …

It wasn’t the Fed that caused the housing crash and financial meltdown. It was Congress and the White House.

The mess began in the 1970s when, during the Carter administration, left-wing activists attacked banks for supposed “redlining” practices that let them discriminate in making home loans.

In response, Congress passed the Community Reinvestment Act, which gave regulators the power to force banks to lend money to “low-income, minority, and distressed neighborhoods.”

To fund all this new lending, they used two little-known government-sponsored enterprises — Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — and essentially rewrote credit standards for the banks, weakening them substantially. Banks made loans, then Fannie and Freddie bought them — using borrowed money to do it.

In this environment, credit ratings no longer mattered much. Neither did having a job or a steady income. What mattered was race.

The process got supercharged in 1992, when a Democrat-led Congress pushed Fannie and Freddie to buy even more mortgages from banks that had made loans to low-income and minority buyers. In 1996, President Clinton’s Department of Housing and Urban Development told Fannie and Freddie that 42% of their financing had to go to those with incomes below the median.

By 2000, HUD [Department of Housing and Urban Development] Secretary Andrew Cuomo proudly unveiled “new regulations” to “provide $2.4 trillion in mortgages for affordable housing for 28.1 million families.” Despite subsequent efforts at reform, Democrats in Congress — led by Sen. Chris Dodd and Rep. Barney Frank — rejected major changes to Fannie and Freddie.

We’re still paying for that today. Fannie and Freddie have gotten a blank check from the government for their losses, and still owe more than $5 trillion that they can’t pay off.

We’ve been critical of Greenspan in the past, but on this, he’s completely right. The biggest villain in the whole financial meltdown isn’t the “private sector,” as some in Congress — like Rep. Frank — have tried to claim. It’s Congress itself.

Shouldn’t those responsible, notably Chris Dodd and Barney Frank, be made to answer for the world-size wreck? What they’ve done to the economy makes Bernie Madoff’s crooked scheme look paltry.

If it’s not to find who is guilty, so that the culprits may be consigned to their just deserts, what is a Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission for?

What is to be done? 0

John Hinderaker of Power Line quotes Lawrence Kadish (writing in the Wall Street Journal, October 12):

It is the interest on the national debt that makes our future unstable. The exploding size of that burden suggests that, short of devaluing the dollar and taking a large bite out of the middle class through inflation and taxation, there is no way to ever pay down that bill. …

In stark but simple terms, unless Americans are made aware of this financial crisis and demand accountability, the very fabric of our society will be destroyed. Interest rates and interest costs will soar and government revenues will be devoured by interest on the national debt. Eventually, most of what we spend on Social Security, Medicare, education, national defense and much more may have to come from new borrowing, if such funding can be obtained. Left unchecked, this destructive deficit-debt cycle will leave the White House and Congress with either having to default on the national debt or instruct the Treasury to run the printing presses into a policy of hyperinflation.

It is against this background that Washington is now debating whether to create social programs it can’t afford.

He comments on this – and we agree:

It is hard to overestimate the danger to which the fecklessness of our current leaders in Washington exposes the nation.

But if  Americans are ‘made aware’ of the great danger they are in – and many of them are aware, as witness the tea parties and the 9/12 protest – what can and should they do about it? ‘Demanding accountability’ would not be enough, even if they got it.