Sunday, October 26, 2008

Requiem For The Bush Presidency

Hearing the President asking his fellow Republicans to cave in and sign on to the bailout bill, I can only ask: What happened to this man I voted for twice?
I will give credit to President Bush where it is due:
1. He maintained, indeed, surged, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan despite a fat, lazy, historically illiterate country that has lost its spine. Indeed, Iraq now looks very winnable, and Afghanistan, while "nation-building" there will always be dubious, as it is landlocked and has no oil revenue and no literate population to speak of, at least the Taliban and Ql Quaeda look like they can be wiped out there.
2. His two Supreme Court nominees, young and energetically pro-Constitution, will help protect us from radical activism for decades to come.
3. His tax cuts have let me keep a little more of my own money from an obscenely massive government.
But this does not excuse his wretched blunders:
1. I have long wondered how can a President who brings such strength and clarity to the war can be so soft and blind on the dangers of illegal immigration. Is he this naive and romantic about immigration of what is mostly an underclass? Or is cheap hired help that important?
2. And tonight, after his sad speech asking us to buy into this insane bailout, I wonder how a man with such resolve, who has asked us to firm our own resolve in so many ways, can fail to ask us for strength in these tough economic waters.
Hearing President Bush tell us the horrors that await us if we do not drink his Bailout Kool-Aid is more than a little depressing.
On the war, I have often analogized that America is like a stupid "multicultural" brainwashed teenager and Bush is the Dad who fills the vital role of telling the teen the way life is. The teen hates it, but realizes later on how right the Dad was.
Well, on this one Dad has wimped out. The President threw down this litany of things that will happen if we fail to listen to the snake oil from his friends the Fed Chairman and the Treasury Secretary. Every single dark consequence is precisely what SHOULD happen in a country where the public and private sector both failed to see the ill wisdom of Affirmative Action Lending and extending bad debt into the hands of people who were wholly unable to pay it back.
Want to know the true source of the financial meltdown in the home mortgage industry leading to the collapse of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and today's attendant financial crisis? Follow the money trail back about nine years. Check out this article from the September 30, 1999 edition of the New York Times (yes, that notoriously right-wing paper!)
In a move that could help increase home ownership rates among minorities and low-income consumers, the Fannie Mae Corporation is easing the credit requirements on loans that it will purchase from banks and other lenders.
The action, which will begin as a pilot program involving 24 banks in 15 markets -- including the New York metropolitan region -- will encourage those banks to extend home mortgages to individuals whose credit is generally not good enough to qualify for conventional loans. Fannie Mae officials say they hope to make it a nationwide program by next spring.
Fannie Mae, the nation's biggest underwriter of home mortgages, has been under increasing pressure from the Clinton Administration to expand mortgage loans among low and moderate income people and felt pressure from stock holders to maintain its phenomenal growth in profits. [Emphasis added.]
The article goes on to predict that such a strategy might not cause problems during times of economic prosperity but that Fannie Mae could run into serious financial difficulty during an economic downturn.

And here we are with the financial markets on the verge of collapse and the federal government debating the largest government bailout in the nation's history.

While the Clinton administration is certainly culpable for getting the ball rolling on these high-risk loans, there is plenty of blame to go around. Fannie Mae led by Clinton's former budget director Franklin Raines and Obama campaign advisor Jim Johnson took Clinton's risky gamble and then doubled down. The pair allegedly cooked the books at Fannie, issued countless dubious mortgages, and then took huge bonuses before leaving the company. Both men have also been accused of accepting special mortgage deals from Countrywide (a co-conspirator in this financial mess) as well.
Johnson resigned from his official position with the Obama campaign because of the scandal, though he, like Raines, may still be advising him.

Liberal politicians on Capitol Hill were no better. For example, Senate Banking Chairman Chris Dodd (D-CT), who was also nabbed in the Countrywide scandal, took more money in campaign contributions from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac than anyone else in the U.S. Senate. (Barack Obama, with only four years in the Senate under his belt, was close behind.) When reform proposals for Fannie and Freddie were put before Dodd, he called them "ill advised."

Despite their accounting problems and dire warnings of crisis, these "government sponsored enterprises" with the full support of liberals in Congress and their special-interest community organizing friends such as ACORN pushed for more subprime lending for their politically-correct constituencies. And calculating financial institutions (too many of which had corrupt relationships with these very same politicians) were happy to play along. Now the entire country is facing a financial disaster.

Any lessons learned? Not in this town. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are raring to reinvigorate the ruinous business of subprime loans to those who can't handle them. And the latest version of the bailout would take "profits" in the bailout scheme from the taxpayer and give them to government programs designed to push yet more risky mortgage loans and related programs controlled by liberal activist groups.
But instead of fighting back about all this, President Bush has caved in. This is not wise. Wise leadership means telling us tough times lie ahead, but we can lick them. Wise leadership means taking bold steps like suspending capital gains taxes so that investors will still invest, even in a recovering market. Wise leadership means suppressing the urge for a quick, expensive fix.
George W. Bush did do some great things. His rightness on the biggest issues means I will never regret his eight-year term. But I cannot hide my disappointment. I fear that his likely successor, Barack Obama, will take the inch of Federal bailout that President Bush gave him and make a mile out of it.

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