Walter E. Williams

President Bush's plan to deal with the subprime crisis is to freeze interest rates on adjustable rate mortgages. Freezing interest rates would stop people's mortgage payments from increasing. That is a gross violation of basic contract rights and would appear to be a Fifth Amendment violation. If a contractual agreement is willingly entered into and agreed upon by a borrower and lender, it is binding and if broken by one party or the other, harsh penalties should ensue. Now here comes government, under the Bush plan, to declare millions of contracts null and void. The long run effect of the Bush plan is to make lending institutions even more selective in choosing borrowers. Then there's the question: If government can invalidate the terms of one kind of contractual agreement where the borrowers can't pay, what's to say that it won't invalidate other contractual agreements where the borrowers encounter hardship and what will that do to financial markets?

The Bush bailout, as well as Federal Reserve Bank cuts in interest rates, is a wealth transfer from creditworthy people and taxpayers to those who made ill-advised credit decisions, and that includes banks as well as borrowers. According to Temple University professor of economics William Dunkelberg, 96 percent of all mortgages are being paid on time. Thirty percent of American homeowners have no mortgage. Delinquency rates were higher in the 1980s than they are today. Only 2 to 3 percent of all mortgages are in foreclosure. The government bailout helps a few people at a huge cost to the rest of the economy.

Government policy got us into the subprime mess and government's measure to fix the mess is going to create more mess. As such I'm reminded of Marcus Cook Connelly's spiritual play, "Green Pastures," where God laments to the Angel Gabriel, "Every time Ah passes a miracle, Ah has to pass fo' or five mo' to ketch up wid it," adding, "Even bein' God ain't no bed of roses." That's something the president and congressmen should think about and leave the miracle business up to God.


Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read Walter Williams' column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.