Thomas Sowell

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, for example, called for "fairer mortgage-lending standards" and declared that "lending institutions are being far more conservative than they have to be in determining the creditworthiness of minorities." The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston likewise declared that "unreasonable measures of creditworthiness" were not "appropriate to the economic culture of urban, lower-income, and nontraditional consumers."

The New York Times reported that "even within the same income group whites are nearly twice as likely as blacks to get loans." Many in the media treated that as proof positive that racial discrimination explained differences in mortgage loan approval rates. They were not talking about racial differences in net worth in those days -- much less taking note of the fact that blacks in the same income brackets as whites had far less net worth.

Racial discrimination was where it was at, as far as liberal politicians and most of the media were concerned. And the familiar "solution" was massive government intervention in the market. Government agencies, from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to the Federal Reserve leaned on lenders to lower lending standards, and the Department of Justice threatened prosecutions for discrimination if the racial makeup of people approved for mortgage loans did not match their preconceptions.

It worked. In fact, it worked so well that many blacks got loans that they could not have gotten otherwise. Now the statistics tell us, belatedly, that blacks lost out, big time, from this "favor" done for them by politicians.

These lowered lending standards applied to many others besides blacks. Everybody lost out when the resulting risky mortgages led to a collapse of the housing market, followed by a collapse of the economy. Lofty words led to bitter realities.

The same mindset that led to these disasters is still prevalent in Washington. Indeed, the very people who spearheaded those political crusades -- Congressman Barney Frank and Senator Christopher Dodd -- crafted new legislation offering the same kind of "solution" to our current problems, namely more massive government intervention in the economy. Words triumphed again.


Thomas Sowell

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

Creators Syndicate