Sunday, November 16, 2008

Who Created The Subprime Meltdown?

Listening to the conservatives, it was the poor. Not that businessmen could ever be so overwhelemed with greed that thjey might be incredilby stupid. No, that would mean that capitalism does need regulation.

I offer the following as an antidote. First, Low-Income Borrowers Blamed in Bailout Crisis from The Washington Independent:

“The rest is a lie — and it’s industry propaganda,” said William Brennan, director of the Home Defense Program of the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, who, in 1991, began raising the alarm over predatory lending in poor neighborhoods. “It’s also racist.”
Popular belief now holds that government regulators ordered Fannie and Freddie to buy more loans made to low-income borrowers, and that housing advocates applauded the agencies’ move to enter the subprime market. In fact, the exact opposite is true, Brennan said.

He was among many advocates, back in 2000, who warned that subprime loans were dangerous and decried Fannie and Freddie’s decisions. By purchasing subprime mortgage-backed securities, the two agencies ended up providing capital to predatory lenders — leading to the foreclosures of borrowers Brennan and others saw in increasing numbers coming to them for help.

And then 11 Racist Lies Conservatives Tell to Avoid Blaming Wall Street for the Financial Crisis, of which I am only going to quote the first:

1. The CRA was a liberal boondoggle designed to con banks into funding housing for undeserving, unqualified minorities.

False. The Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 was the result of decades of disinvestment in poor and working-class neighborhoods. It was designed to put an end to "red-lining" -- a widespread practice in which banks refused to write mortgages for houses in certain neighborhoods, no matter who was applying or how creditworthy they were.

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 had made it illegal for real estate agents and banks to discriminate against homeowners on the basis of race. Red-lining soon emerged as a not-so-subtle way to continue this discrimination, by declaring, ahem, certain neighborhoods as unfit to invest in. By 1977, the results of this practice were becoming all too obvious, so Congress stepped and gave lenders a choice: if you want the FDIC to insure your deposits, you need to knock off the redlining.

The CRA didn't force lenders to make riskier loans than they would have otherwise. It simply required that they take each applicant on his or her own merits, and give people in poorer neighborhoods the same fair chance at a mortgage that everybody else in town was getting. It wasn't about preferential treatment. It was just about basic equality.

Thanks to John and Paul for pointing this out to me.

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