Why We Can’t Let The Bush Administration Control The Bailout

September 21st, 2008at 12:44pm Posted by Eli

Just a couple of reminders about how we got into this mess.

Dean Baker:

In March of 2007, after the first shock waves of the housing meltdown had already hit, the Associated Press reported Mr. Paulson’s view that the credit difficulties linked to the housing slump would be limited.

In August of last year, after the second round of financial shock waves disrupted markets worldwide, Paulson commented, “We have the strongest global economy I’ve seen in my business lifetime.”

Just last March he warmly endorsed a reduction in the capital requirements for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, saying “additional capital [invested in mortgages by Fannie and Freddie] will enable the companies to help more homeowners and will strengthen the underlying fundamentals of the mortgage market.”

At every point along the way, Secretary Paulson has failed to see the extent of the crisis resulting from the collapse of the housing bubble. This raises serious questions about his judgment. Reporters should be discussing Paulson’t track record in the context of this bailout proposal.

And Eliot Spitzer in February, speaking from beyond the political grave:

Predatory lending was widely understood to present a looming national crisis. This threat was so clear that as New York attorney general, I joined with colleagues in the other 49 states in attempting to fill the void left by the federal government. Individually, and together, state attorneys general of both parties brought litigation or entered into settlements with many subprime lenders that were engaged in predatory lending practices. Several state legislatures, including New York’s, enacted laws aimed at curbing such practices.

What did the Bush administration do in response? Did it reverse course and decide to take action to halt this burgeoning scourge? As Americans are now painfully aware, with hundreds of thousands of homeowners facing foreclosure and our markets reeling, the answer is a resounding no.

Not only did the Bush administration do nothing to protect consumers, it embarked on an aggressive and unprecedented campaign to prevent states from protecting their residents from the very problems to which the federal government was turning a blind eye.

(…)

Throughout our battles with the OCC and the banks, the mantra of the banks and their defenders was that efforts to curb predatory lending would deny access to credit to the very consumers the states were trying to protect. But the curbs we sought on predatory and unfair lending would have in no way jeopardized access to the legitimate credit market for appropriately priced loans. Instead, they would have stopped the scourge of predatory lending practices that have resulted in countless thousands of consumers losing their homes and put our economy in a precarious position.

When history tells the story of the subprime lending crisis and recounts its devastating effects on the lives of so many innocent homeowners, the Bush administration will not be judged favorably. The tale is still unfolding, but when the dust settles, it will be judged as a willing accomplice to the lenders who went to any lengths in their quest for profits. So willing, in fact, that it used the power of the federal government in an unprecedented assault on state legislatures, as well as on state attorneys general and anyone else on the side of consumers.

So just keep all that in mind when you think about who should get the keys to the bailout henhouse.

(h/t sadlyyes for the Spitzer piece)

Entry Filed under: Bush,Corruption/Cronyism,Economy,Republicans


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