Monday, 26 December 2011

Joe Nocera Takes on the Big Lie

I've often thought you could make a case for Fannie Mae's and Freddie Mac's culpability in the financial crisis: a very, very small case.

So, if you started listing reasons for the crisis, they might come in, say, number 11 or thereabouts.

What amazes me is the persistence of the simple-minded Republican narrative that they were the cause of the financial crisis. Not a cause. But the cause. (And the hard-core faithful don't want any other causes entered into the record, as when the four Republicans on the FCIC voted to ban the words "shadow banking" and "deregulation" from the final report!)

This viewpoint is so ignorant and ill-informed, so contrary to "the truth on the ground" that we know from how this crisis developed and what it looked like as it unfolded, that it strains credulity. Is Peter Wallison so ideologically blinkered that he can't even process a set of historical facts in a logical way?

Joe Nocera had a good recent column about this, The Big Lie.

What I enjoyed best though was the second comment that appeared afterward. Excerpts:
I was a mortgage broker during the housing bubble. I can tell you that a "conforming" loan -- one that was run through Fannie or Freddie's "desktop underwriting" software -- always made us nervous. We got rejected for approval regularly whereas if we sold a subprime loan with a higher interest rate we got approved more easily and made much more on the loan ... rather than blame what was in essence a good government program for the housing collapse I say a lot of it deserves to go to the lenders and brokers who hustled these loans.

Once mortgages became securitized and the lenders had no skin in the game the whole system went to hell.
Exactly, and a flaw I noted in the securitization model (and I'm far from the first person to make the observation) almost two years ago.

Earth to Peter Wallison: Are you listening?