Thomas Sowell

Who could be against "the American dream" of home ownership or so mean-spirited as to ask how much it would cost the taxpayers or what risks it would create for the whole financial system? Certainly not most Democrats or Republicans in Congress or the White House.

The media were also part of this crusade for more home ownership, more widely available. If some segments of the population did not own homes as much as others, that just showed that there was something wrong with the mortgage lending process, as far as editorial office philosophers were concerned.

As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch put it, "lending institutions are being far more conservative than they have to be in determining the creditworthiness of minorities."

Later, disastrous default rates and foreclosure rates among "the underserved population" who had been given mortgage loans to satisfy government quotas suggest that the old-fashioned mortgage qualifications that had been pooh-poohed in editorial offices had more basis than the crusades of politicians and the press.

There are many other complications covered in "The Housing Boom and Bust." But behind all the complexities was a very simple fact: Monthly mortgage payments by millions of home buyers were what provided the money for the banks, the financial institutions that bought mortgages from the banks, and the Wall Street firms that created sophisticated securities based on those mortgages.

Riskier mortgage lending practices, imposed by government, were what set the stage for many mortgage payments to stop and thus for the financial disasters that followed. Political rhetoric, echoed in the media, seeks to obscure that painfully plain fact.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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