Friday, September 19, 2008

What in the world is going on here?

You've seen the headlines, and you heard of the failures and buyouts. Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, AIG; all big names and all in big trouble. Then those mysterious quasi-government agencies with names like Freddie and Fannie become wards of the state and you learn that you and your fellow taxpayers are potentially on the hook for tens of billions of dollars. At the end of the week Washington Mutual is looking for a buyer, and you start to wonder about the security of your own bank and your own savings account. Let's change that ad copy to WaMu -- boo hoo. Somewhere in the back of your mind you understand that this is all tied somehow to bad mortgages. If you start reading a bit further to enhance your understanding you run into terms like Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS) and credit-default swaps, whatever in the world those are. Read further and you find out that a combination of falling home prices and mortgage defaults have put many investment banks and other financial institutions in deep puddin'. All this reading, all this watching the talking heads on TV, and you still don't really know what in the world is going on here. Fear not. I'm here to help. I know … I'm just another talk show host; but the fact is that when the stage was being set for the problems we're seeing today I was making most of my money as a real estate lawyer .. closing loans for some of the very institutions that are the tank today. This rather unique combination – closing lawyer and radio talk show host – gave me a front row seat to the politicization of mortgage loans that led us to today's headlines. OK .. so we all know that a lot of really bad real estate loans were made. The political class would sure love for us to believe that the blame here rests squarely on "greedy" (try to define that word) mortgage brokers and lenders. The truth is that most of the blame rests on political meddling in the credit decisions of these mortgage lenders. Twenty years ago the buzz-word in the media was "redlining." Newspapers across the country were filled with hard-hitting investigative reports about evil and racist mortgage lenders refusing to make real estate loans to various minorities and to applicants who lived in lower-income neighborhoods. There I was closing these loans in the afternoons, and in the mornings offering a counter-argument on the radio to these absurd "redlining" claims. Frankly, the claims that evil mortgage lenders were systematically denying loans to blacks and other minorities were a lot sexier on the radio than my claims that when credit histories, job stability, loan-to-value ratios and income levels were considered there was no evident racial discrimination. Political correctness won the day. Washington made it clear to banks and other lending institutions that if they did not do something .. and fast .. to bring more minorities and low-income Americans into the world of home ownership there would be a heavy price to pay. Congress set up processes (Research the Community Redevelopment Act) whereby community activist groups and organizers could effectively stop a bank's efforts to grow if that bank didn't make loans to unqualified borrowers. Enter, stage left, the "subprime" mortgage. These lenders knew that a very high percentage of these loans would turn to garbage – but it was a price that had to be paid if the bank was to expand and grow. We should note that among the community groups browbeating banks into making these bad loans was an outfit called ACORN. There is one certain presidential candidate that did a lot of community organizing for ACORN. I won't mention his name so as to avoid politicizing this column. These garbage loans to unqualified borrowers were then bundled up and sold. The expectation was that the loans would be eventually paid off when rising home values led some borrowers to access their equity through re-financing and others to sell and move on up the ladder. Oops. Right now this crisis is being sold to the American public by the left as evidence the failure of the free market and capitalism. Not so. What we're seeing is the inevitable result of political interference in free market economics. Acme bank didn't want to loan money to Joe Homebuyer because Joe had a spotty job history, owed too much money on his credit cards, and wasn't all that good at making payments on time. The politicians told Acme Bank to figure out a way to make that loan, because, after all, Joe is a bona-fide minority-American, or forget about opening that new branch office on the Southside. The loan was made under politicial pressure; the loan, with millions like it, failed – and now we are left to enjoy today's headlines. So … why aren't you reading the whole story in the mainstream media? Come on, are you kidding me? Do you really expect the media to blame this mess on deadbeat borrowers and political interference in the free market when it is so easy to put the blame on greedy lenders and evil capitalists? Remember … there's an election going on. One candidate is decidedly anti-capitalist. Do the math.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

wealth redistribution= communism

"We want to take money and put it back in the pocket of middle-class people,"

Biden said in an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America."

Monday, September 15, 2008

what you won't hear on the news

Politics and the Fannie Mae Piggy Bank
Franklin Raines, Jamie Gorelick, and some very cooked books.

By Byron York

Editor’s noteThe impending federal bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac has shed light not only on the seriousness of current housing market conditions but also on the mismanagement and corruption that helped cripple the mortgage giants. Although political figures from both parties have profited mightily from Fannie Mae, it has been a particular favorite of former officials of Democratic administrations, as NR’s Byron York found out when he looked into the situation in the summer of 2006.

Hit Print version above to read the article.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

read and learn Charlie Gibson

Charlie Gibson's Gaffe

By Charles Krauthammer
Saturday, September 13, 2008; A17

"At times visibly nervous . . . Ms. Palin most visibly stumbled when she was asked by Mr. Gibson if she agreed with the Bush doctrine. Ms. Palin did not seem to know what he was talking about. Mr. Gibson, sounding like an impatient teacher, informed her that it meant the right of 'anticipatory self-defense.' "

-- New York Times, Sept. 12

Informed her? Rubbish.

The New York Times got it wrong. And Charlie Gibson got it wrong.

There is no single meaning of the Bush doctrine. In fact, there have been four distinct meanings, each one succeeding another over the eight years of this administration -- and the one Charlie Gibson cited is not the one in common usage today. It is utterly different.

He asked Palin, "Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?"

She responded, quite sensibly to a question that is ambiguous, "In what respect, Charlie?"

Sensing his "gotcha" moment, Gibson refused to tell her. After making her fish for the answer, Gibson grudgingly explained to the moose-hunting rube that the Bush doctrine "is that we have the right of anticipatory self-defense."


I know something about the subject because, as the Wikipedia entry on the Bush doctrine notes, I was the first to use the term. In the cover essay of the June 4, 2001, issue of the Weekly Standard entitled, "The Bush Doctrine: ABM, Kyoto, and the New American Unilateralism," I suggested that the Bush administration policies of unilaterally withdrawing from the ABM treaty and rejecting the Kyoto protocol, together with others, amounted to a radical change in foreign policy that should be called the Bush doctrine.

Then came 9/11, and that notion was immediately superseded by the advent of the war on terror. In his address to the joint session of Congress nine days after 9/11, President Bush declared: "Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime." This "with us or against us" policy regarding terror -- first deployed against Pakistan when Secretary of State Colin Powell gave President Musharraf that seven-point ultimatum to end support for the Taliban and support our attack on Afghanistan -- became the essence of the Bush doctrine.

Until Iraq. A year later, when the Iraq war was looming, Bush offered his major justification by enunciating a doctrine of preemptive war. This is the one Charlie Gibson thinks is the Bush doctrine.

It's not. It's the third in a series and was superseded by the fourth and current definition of the Bush doctrine, the most sweeping formulation of the Bush approach to foreign policy and the one that most clearly and distinctively defines the Bush years: the idea that the fundamental mission of American foreign policy is to spread democracy throughout the world. It was most dramatically enunciated in Bush's second inaugural address: "The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world."

This declaration of a sweeping, universal American freedom agenda was consciously meant to echo John Kennedy's pledge in his inaugural address that the United States "shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty." It draws also from the Truman doctrine of March 1947 and from Wilson's 14 points.

If I were in any public foreign policy debate today, and my adversary were to raise the Bush doctrine, both I and the audience would assume -- unless my interlocutor annotated the reference otherwise -- that he was speaking about the grandly proclaimed (and widely attacked) freedom agenda of the Bush administration.

Not the Gibson doctrine of preemption.

Not the "with us or against us" no-neutrality-is-permitted policy of the immediate post-9/11 days.

Not the unilateralism that characterized the pre-9/11 first year of the Bush administration.

Presidential doctrines are inherently malleable and difficult to define. The only fixed "doctrines" in American history are the Monroe and the Truman doctrines which come out of single presidential statements during administrations where there were few other contradictory or conflicting foreign policy crosscurrents.

Such is not the case with the Bush doctrine.

Yes, Sarah Palin didn't know what it is. But neither does Charlie Gibson. And at least she didn't pretend to know -- while he looked down his nose and over his glasses with weary disdain, sighing and "sounding like an impatient teacher," as the Times noted. In doing so, he captured perfectly the establishment snobbery and intellectual condescension that has characterized the chattering classes' reaction to the mother of five who presumes to play on their stage.