Who caused the global economic crisis? (Hint: it wasn't George W. Bush)

"Toutes choses sont dites déjà, mais comme personne n'écoute, il faut toujours recommencer."

--André Gide

I sometimes wonder if The New York Times is secretly in league with the country's dentists. All the teeth grinding our former paper of record occasions must be good for those in the business of capping and crowning teeth. Consider, to take only the most recent example that comes to hand, the long piece in yesterday's business section about who or what caused the current economic crisis.

I'll tell you in a moment who really caused it, but let's play a game. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to guess whom the Times would nominate as the prime mover and scapegoat-in-chief in the global financial dégringolade we've been living through. Ready? You have 10 seconds to come up with the answer. . . .

OK. Time's up. Those of you who said "Ronald Reagan" or "Margaret Thatcher" get honorable mention, but you're still playing last week's game. No, it should be obvious to all comers that the only possible answer to any question involving political or economic failure is George W. Bush.

That's right, folks. It was all George's fault. Well, if you are Times reader (which is not the same thing as someone who happens to read the Times), you already knew that. Everything is Bush's fault.

In the great contest to determine the worst Times story ever, many, so many, are called, but few are chosen. To make it to the zenith of awfulness, a Times story must not only be factually distressed, it must also achieve that tone of absolute smugness that perfectly reflects and soothingly reinforces the self-righteous sensitivities of its readership. I wrote about one example last January when the Times, in its best more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger pulpit strains ran a story about the high homicide rates of veterans returning from Iraq. Oh dear. The brutality of war. The awfulness of Iraq. George Bush. It all added up to a psychic catastrophe. Across the US, towns and cities would need to brace themselves for homicidal rampages as returning Vets went berserk.

Alas for the story, it turned out the the homicide rate among Vets was far lower than that of the general population, a titdbit that the Times neglected to mention. At the time, I asked "Why does anyone believe The New York Times about anything, ever?", a question no one has yet answered to my satisfaction.

But one of the things that made that story about the Killer Vets so perfect a Times story was its tone. Pseudo concern underwritten by smug knowingness. That's the recipe. Yesterday's story about how the global economic crisis is all Bush's fault comes from the same kitchen. It's an exercise in histrionics, partly. The Times presents the story as it it were staging a Stephen King movie: Title: "The Reckoning." Episode one: "White House Philosophy Stoked Mortgage Bonfire." Starring George W. Bush as the incarnation of evil. The story opens with a large picture of the President smiling in front of sign reading in huge letters "A Home of Your Own." For those slow on the uptake, there is also this epigraph:

“We can put light where there’s darkness, and hope where there’s despondency in this country. And part of it is working together as a nation to encourage folks to own their own home.”

-- President Bush, Oct. 15, 2002

The Times allows that "there are plenty of culprits" and mentions "lenders who peddled easy credit, consumers who took on mortgages they could not afford and Wall Street chieftains who loaded up on mortgage-backed securities without regard to the risk." But--and here comes the gravamen of the piece--"But the story of how we got here is partly one of Mr. Bush’s own making, according to . . ." Well, according to the cheery-picked people the Times assembled in this preposterous, factually-challenged indictment of the the President.

A few months ago in this space, I asked "Who caused 'the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression?'" The answer, in brief, is the utopian policies of left-wing Democrats who required banks to lend money to people who could not--or would not--pay it back.

Let's go through it again, step by step:

The Root Cause

* According to Senator Chris Dodd (D. CT) the “root cause” of the problem is “the housing foreclosure crisis.”

Not 100% accurate, perhaps–it’s really a credit crisis–but close enough for government work, especially from someone who has just happens to chair the Senate Banking Committee and who, completely coincidentally, has been such a conspicuous beneficiary of preferential mortgages and who, also coincidentally, leads the list of those who have received campaign contributions from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. (Guess who comes in 2nd and 3rd?)

* But what caused the housing crisis to which Senator Dodd alludes? The housing “bubble.”

* And what caused the housing bubble? “Sub-prime,” i.e., risky, mortgages; that is, mortgages made to people who, in the normal course of things would have to pay a premium in order to obtain a mortgage (if they could obtain one at all) because

a) they had bad or non-existent credit

b) their income was insufficient or

c) both.

Packaging the American Dream

A home of your own. It’s part of the American dream. Work hard, save up for a down payment, pay your bills on time and, presto, you, too, can buy a home.