On domestic policy, George W. Bush has been a terrible president. He sold out to the left early and often and when called on it has been irritatingly self-righteous.
However, there is at least one domestic issue on which he does not deserve to be pilloried: housing policy.
And yet the New York Times has excoriated Bush on an issue where he was clearly more right than wrong. The NYT hit piece from Sunday, “White House Philosophy Stoked Mortgage Bonfire,” by Jo Becker, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, and Stephen Labaton, dovetails perfectly with Times reporters’ legendary hostility to markets and limited government. Here is a select passage:
But the story of how we got here is partly one of Mr. Bush’s own making, according to a review of his tenure that included interviews with dozens of current and former administration officials.
From his earliest days in office, Mr. Bush paired his belief that Americans do best when they own their own home with his conviction that markets do best when let alone.
He pushed hard to expand homeownership, especially among minorities, an initiative that dovetailed with his ambition to expand the Republican tent — and with the business interests of some of his biggest donors. But his housing policies and hands-off approach to regulation encouraged lax lending standards.
As someone who covered housing for all of his nearly seven years (1999-2006) at The Bond Buyer newspaper, I attended congressional hearing after hearing at which the Bush administration lauded increasing homeownership rates as socially desirable and took credit for rising homeownership rates, but at the same time the administration (and Fed chairman Alan Greenspan) warned Congress for years about the systemic risk posed by the bloated portfolios of quasi-governmental Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. A few in Congress, like Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and the occasional conservative lawmaker cared, but most didn’t.
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts), now chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, and one of a select few lawmakers whom history will rightly blame for the subprime mortgage meltdown, passionately resisted efforts to rein in Fannie and Freddie. Whenever the Bush administration proposed reining in the two mortgage giants, Frank was there whining and scolding the administration, accusing it of having a vendetta against the nation’s poor. Frank’s still doing it today. (Bush is fighting back.)
Of course the Community Reinvestment Act so beloved by leftists and the activism of liberal interest groups such as ACORN and the Greenlining Institute also played a major role in the housing meltdown. (See “Financial Affirmative Action,” “ACORN’s Food Stamp Mortgages“) Don’t expect to read that in the Times.