With Barney Frank readying for retirement, I’m sure we’ll see lots of puff pieces about his “contributions” to our country. My guess is that these salutes won’t emphasize his supremely negative role in the present housing mess and financial crisis. Here is an older piece by Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe that captures the government’s (and Frank’s) contributions:
While the mortgage crisis convulsing Wall Street has its share of private-sector culprits — many of whom have been learning lately just how pitiless the private sector’s discipline can be — they weren’t the ones who “got us into this mess.” Barney Frank’s talking points notwithstanding, mortgage lenders didn’t wake up one fine day deciding to junk long-held standards of creditworthiness in order to make ill-advised loans to unqualified borrowers. It would be closer to the truth to say they woke up to find the government twisting their arms and demanding that they do so – or else. [snip]
His [Frank’s] fingerprints are all over this fiasco. Time and time again, Frank insisted that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were in good shape. Five years ago, for example, when the Bush administration proposed much tighter regulation of the two companies, Frank was adamant that “these two entities, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, are not facing any kind of financial crisis.” When the White House warned of “systemic risk for our financial system” unless the mortgage giants were curbed, Frank complainedthat the administration was more concerned about financial safety than about housing.
Now that the bubble has burst and the “systemic risk” is apparent to all, Frank blithely declares: “The private sector got us into this mess.” Well, give the congressman points for gall. Wall Street and private lenders have plenty to answer for, but it was Washington and the political class that derailed this train. If Frank is looking for a culprit to blame, he can find one suspect in the nearest mirror.
In Coda II on Frank, I’ll discuss one of his more positive contributions.