Thomas Sowell

Among long-time politicians who are being seriously challenged for the first time this election year, Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts best epitomizes the cynical ruthlessness which hides behind their lofty rhetoric.

Having been a key figure in promoting the risky mortgage lending practices imposed by the federal government on lenders, and on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to buy these risky mortgages from the lenders, Barney Frank blamed the resulting collapse of financial markets and the economy on everybody except Barney Frank.

In February 2009, as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Congressman Frank summoned the heads of some of the biggest banks in the country before his committee. In the words of the Los Angeles Times, these bankers "endured hours of hectoring" by "indignant lawmakers" on that committee.

These bankers were in no position to talk back to members of this committee, much less point out how committee members -- including Chairman Barney Frank -- had themselves promoted laws and policies responsible for the current economic disaster.

This is a committee with the power to promote legislation detrimental to this heavily regulated industry. That in turn gives the committee the power to force others to sit there and take it, when they are demonized on nationwide TV.

Congressman Barney Frank has never hesitated to use his power ruthlessly. On one occasion, he threatened bankers with summoning them before his committee and forcing them to reveal their home addresses -- which would of course put their spouses and children at the mercy of any kooks that might come along.

Meanwhile, Congressman Frank could piously invoke "social justice" in defense of similarly ruthless community activist groups like ACORN or National People's Action, which had in fact besieged the homes not only of bankers but also of public officials who dared to oppose their agendas. In Barney Frank's words, these groups were simply people who "cared about equity" and who were just "trying very hard to preserve some equity and some social justice."

But the harassment and shakedown activities of such groups were perhaps best captured by the words of a leader of one of these groups, who addressed her followers by saying: "We want it. They've got it. Let's go get it."

These were not just idle words. The dirty little secret that few in the media seem to want to discuss is that community activists, including Jesse Jackson, have over the years extracted literally billions of dollars from financial institutions, as the price of peace and of not challenging these institutions in hearings before federal regulators, as these groups are empowered to do under the Community Reinvestment Act.


Thomas Sowell

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

Creators Syndicate