Still Waiting for 'Straight Talk' on the Fiscal Mess
Obviously, there are many reasons -- and culprits, including President Bush, who supported CRA -- for the meltdown, ranging from cheap money to poor industry practices. But a key reason is a federal government policy that practically begged lenders to make ridiculous loans. Under CRA rating standards, to be rated "outstanding" a bank should have "an excellent record of serving the credit needs of highly economically disadvantaged areas."
Is it too much to expect the GOP ticket to figure out a way to make this case? Shouldn't a maverick be willing to level with the public, not only about corporate America's role in this disaster and the federal government's role, but also about the role played by average Americans?
"The profiteering was not just the result of a few thousand scoundrels on Wall Street or in Washington, as greedy and as bonus-hungry as many of them no doubt were," argued the Hoover Institution's Victor Davis Hanson. "Look at the housing market as a sort of musical chairs in which everyone profited as long as he grabbed a seat when the music stopped. Then those left standing -- with high-priced loans and negative equity when the crash came -- defaulted and stuck taxpayers with debt in the billions of dollars. But until then, most owners who had sold homes cashed out beyond their wildest dreams."
I recall those water-cooler conversations where everyone bragged about the astounding increases in the values of their homes. How many California homeowners didn't tap the equity in their home to finance new granite counter kitchens, bathrooms, and swimming pools? In the formerly growing desert communities of Southern California, homes sold for nearly $300,000 at the height of the market but can be snapped up now for about $100,000. When the bubble burst, the "owners" simply walked away and left the lenders and now the taxpayers holding the bag.
But there's still time for Sen. McCain to engage the public with some of this straight talk, although the time is running short.