Mark Hillman

Cut through the doubletalk that obscures the financial mess in Washington and on Wall Street, and these points are obvious to everyone paying attention:

* Congress used the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to force banks to make risky loans to "help" people buy houses they could not afford.

* As early as 2001, President Bush and Republicans warned that Freddie and Fannie's financial house was unstable and could wreak havoc on the economy.

* Fannie and Freddie spent more than $200 million lobbying Congress to ignore the problem.

* Subservient Democrats, like Barney Frank, dutifully declared that Freddie and Fannie were safe and sound and blocked reform.

No one can dispute that Freddie and Fannie were certainly unsound. So, who pays for Congress' failure to reform? Taxpayers, of course: up to $4 trillion in lost savings and investments plus more than $1 trillion in new government debt.

Now Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid want us to believe that the financial fiasco is the fault of deregulation.

Poppycock.

In 1999, before George W. Bush took office, the New York Times' Steven Holmes reported that the Clinton administration was pressuring Fannie Mae to expand mortgage loans to "people with less-than-stellar credit ratings."

Through CRA, banks were strong-armed to make risky loans and threatened with fines of up to $500,000 per violation if they didn't reach government quotas. Banks were encouraged to hire "community groups," like ACORN, to find "qualified" borrowers.

Not surprisingly, when banks were offered the chance to dump those risky loans on Fannie and Freddie, they jumped at the chance.

Holmes reported, in 1999: "Fannie Mae is taking on significantly more risk, which may not pose any difficulties during flush economic times (but) . . . may run into trouble in an economic downturn, prompting a government rescue similar to that of the savings and loan industry in the 1980s."

In 2001, the Bush administration warned of "strong repercussions in the financial markets" if Fannie and Freddie encountered financial trouble. Treasury Secretary John Snow repeatedly warned that federal regulators didn't have enough authority to properly supervise Fannie and Freddie. As recently as August 2007, President Bush urged Congress "to get them reformed, get them streamlined, get them focused."

Democrats ignored those warnings:

Rep. Barney Frank said he did not want to "focus on safety and soundness . . . . I want to roll the dice a little bit more in this situation toward subsidized housing."

Rep. Maxine Waters claimed, "We do not have a crisis . . . Everything (in CRA) has worked just fine."


Mark Hillman

Mark Hillman is a Colorado native, a farmer, "recovering journalist" and a former Majority Leader of the Colorado Senate.