Walter E. Williams

In my more cynical moments, I think that we Americans deserve what we get from our politicians, many of whom can be generally described as nothing less than loathsome. You say, "Williams, that's a pretty heavy putdown." My question to you is how else would you describe these congressmen who are now blaming the financial mess on the failure of the free market? Starting with the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, that was given more teeth during the Clinton administration, Congress started intimidating banks and other financial institutions into making loans, so-called subprime loans, to high-risk homebuyers and businesses. The carrot offered was that these high-risk loans would be purchased by the government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Anyone with an ounce of brains would have known that this was a prescription for disaster but there was a congressional chorus of denial.

Five years ago, Congressman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) vouched for the "soundness" of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and said, "I do not see any possibility of serious financial losses to the treasury." In 2004 congressional hearings, where the Bush administration sought greater oversight over Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) said, "We do not have a crisis at Freddie Mac and particularly at Fannie Mae," adding that "the GSEs have exceeded their housing goals." Congressman Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) said, "There's nothing wrong with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac." In these hearings Barney Frank said that he doesn't see "anything in the reports that raises safety and soundness problems." Earlier this year, Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) praised Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for "riding to the rescue" to help people get home mortgage loans, adding that they "need to do more" to help high-risk borrowers get better loans.

The financial collapse of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is not a failure of the free market because lending institutions in a free market would not have taken on the high-risk loans. They were forced to by the heavy hand of government. The solution is not a taxpayer-financed bailout. The solution is to let them fail and allow the people who invested in them, as well as the people who purchased homes they couldn't afford, suffer the losses. Of course that takes a level of political courage that is in short supply. There are other measures that should be taken as part of a second-best solution.


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.'
 
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