Meanwhile, thousands of new homeowners, a large proportion of them Hispanic and black, faced foreclosure and eviction. Government's efforts to help people -- especially minorities with subpar credit -- created a mess.
Finally the third H, higher education. Going back three decades, government has subsidized college loans in a way that has pumped money into the nation's colleges and universities. The argument was that college degrees enabled people to make better livings and that government should help everyone who wanted one.
But as government pumped more and more money in, institutions have been raising tuitions and fees faster than inflation for three decades. That leaves college unaffordable for almost every family without government-encouraged loans.
The result has been administrative bloat -- colleges and universities have had more administrators than teachers since 2005 -- and students with college loan debt that can't be discharged in bankruptcy.
Many students leave school without degrees but with plenty of debt. Many who do earn degrees do so in subjects that, in our sluggish new normal economy, don't lead to jobs after graduation.
But the debts remain and can build up for a lifetime. Government's efforts to help people -- young people seeking a college education -- have produced a mess.
Not all policies attempting to help people produce such results. The G.I. Bill of Rights providing higher education benefits and housing loans after World War II worked because it rewarded not only past service but also strenuous effort.
The original FHA home mortgage program worked well because it limited loans to those with good credit ratings.
But policies trying to extend the benefits of health insurance, housing and higher education that tended to sever the connection between effort and reward have backfired and hurt many of the intended beneficiaries.
Government policymakers failed to anticipate the responses of third parties attempting to game the system and grab some of the money government was making available.
The impulse to help those in need is one of mankind's better traits. But the impulse to have government help them is often self-defeating.