September 30, 2008
Johan Norberg, on his blog JohanNorberg.net, points out the Democratic intervention that caused the financial crisis
SOME milestones in the prehistory of the crisis. 1933: As part of the New Deal, investment banks are stopped from also acting as commercial banks (which would have given them bank deposits and more stability). 1938: As part of the New Deal, president (Franklin D.) Roosevelt creates Fannie Mae and in 1970 Congress creates Freddie Mac. With their implicit government guarantees they can offer cheaper loans and expand until they dominate the American mortgage market. 1989: The American government step(s) in and pay(s) for the savings and loan crisis, which sets a precedent. 1995: The Community Reinvestment Act is revised so that banks and thrifts are forced to give home loans to low and moderate-income households as well. In return they are allowed to repackage and sell those sub-prime risks to others, which Bear Stearns pioneers in 1997. 2001-03: Instead of letting the market get rid of bad businesses and loans after the dotcom bubble and 9/11, the (Federal Reserve) reduces its rate from 6.5 per cent to 1 per cent (with) a dramatic expansion of the money supply, which creates a real estate bubble.
Mae and Mac ran leverage ratios that exceeded 60 to one (cheered on by the Democrats) to keep giving loans to people who could not really afford it. It only took more traditional interest rates for the bubble to burst. The independent investment banks that did not have access to bank deposits collapsed and almost brought the whole system down. All those who now think that the solution is to give more powers to politicians, authorities and central banks should look at what they did with the powers they already had.
Quadrant Online provides more detail:
IN the past week, the Australian media (has) given copious quantities of space and time to commentators seeking to blame the American sub-prime loans crisis on the market economy. These commentators, most of them from state-funded universities and media, think their own commitment to state ownership, government intervention and a heavily regulated economy has been vindicated as market forces and corporate greed apparently spin out of control. It is revealing, therefore, to re-read an article from the conservative City Journal in 2000 predicting problems for the banking sector from the Clinton administration’s resurrection of Jimmy Carter’s 1977 Community Reinvestment Act, which appears to have been the major single factor in the origins of American high-risk sub-prime loans. Under Bill Clinton: banks were required to provide loans on an affirmative action basis to poor inner-urban ghettoes; the scheme’s intentions were to help low-income earners buy homes and revive decaying neighbourhoods; much of the money was funnelled through a nationwide network of left-wing community activist groups; government regulators were appointed to measure banks’ performance and ensure they reversed their previous racially discriminatory policies of declining to lend money to high-risk clients; by 2000, banks had committed nearly $1 trillion for loans to low-income ethnic and inner-urban groups; at the time, the chairman of the US Senate banking committee, Republican senator Phil Gramm, denounced the program as a vast extortion scheme against the nation’s banks.
Mark Steyn, at NationalReview.com, on why Sarah Palin should speak freely:
THE Palin nomination has generated the only real enthusiasm on the Republican side and keeping her under wraps until she can mouth the appropriately nuanced platitudes isn’t worth it. There’s nothing to be gained by taking Miss Authenticity and turning her into a Foggy Bottom bore. Plus a gazillion interviews a day with WZZZ-AM Presque Isle, Maine, would lessen the elimination round stakes attached to the once-a-month highwire acts with (Katie) Couric and (Charlie) Gibson. And, as Gibson’s condescending schoolmarm act suggests, the “name the deputy fisheries minister of Hoogivsastan” school of questioning is likely to wear thinner a lot quicker than any duff answers. My favourite repulse of the gotcha technique was proposed after Andy Hiller’s famous interrogation of George W. Bush in 2000: Hiller asked him to name the new prime minister of India. “The new prime minister of India is … no,” Bush said. “Can you name the foreign minister of Mexico?” “No, sir,” Hiller replied. “But I would say I’m not running for president and I don’t write foreign policy.” Upon hearing this weaselly dodge, which is perfectly in keeping with the spirit of gotcha, Bush should have switched fields to Hiller’s area of expertise. “You’re in television,” Bush might have said. “Who played the professor on Gilligan’s Island?”
All Governor Palin should insist on, after the desperate editing of her words by Gibson, is that every interview be live. And if they’re all disasters, they’ll wind up like (Joe) Biden’s gaffes or (Bill) Clinton’s adulteries. As Stalin remarked in another context, one is a tragedy, a million is a statistic.