Two interesting columns today over at Yahoo Finance. First up, Laura Rowley's Money & Happiness Column:
Q: What's the cause of the economic crisis from your perspective?
A: There is an awful lot of blame to go around on Wall Street, in Washington, and in the irresponsible behavior of individuals. But stepping back, the critical error was that everyone [thought] there would not be a substantial, nationwide decrease in real estate prices. The whole subprime debacle was predicated on the fact that people said, "Well, this borrower is not really credit worthy and can't afford the house, but in four years it will be up 20 percent or more."
It was widely believed that if you had bad mortgages from different geographic areas that all those [real estate markets] weren't going to go down together. You had a pool of 100 bad mortgages from borrowers with low income or bad credit, that were each a piece of [expletive]. The idea was you put them together and now it's not a piece of [expletive]. People believed that through geographic diversification you can diversify risk. That was what undergirded the entire breakdown, and this was not a 3-year phenomenon, it was building for 10 years. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were absurdities; those firms were recklessly and incompetently run.
Gee, I wonder who was blocking the oversight of these absurdities? Do you know, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA)? How about you, Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT)?
Next up, Ben Stein:
* What the heck happened to our economy so suddenly and powerfully that it caused the immense uproar and fear and stock market crashes we have had lately?
Start around 1995. Groups involved with civil rights issues and activities for poor people began to complain that poor people and especially non-white poor people got mortgages much less often than white well to do people. Many economists, including me, explained that it was not at all surprising that poorer, less credit worthy people were often turned down for credit. That's how credit is supposed to work: you lend to people who will pay you back.
But the advocates for poor and black people had immense political clout. Under President Bill Clinton, they passed legislation that called on banks to be required to lend to non credit worthy borrowers. The laws, including the Community Reinvestment Act, the CRA, required two large government sponsored enterprises, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to buy those lower quality mortgages from the banks, guarantee them, and sell them to the public. These were bundled into immense pools of subprime mortgages as they were called, and sold all over the world...
Well, I wonder who managed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? And who in Congress protected them from oversight until they melted down in an inferno of worthless debt?
Don't hold your breath for the Congressional investigation of the GSEs.