YOU CAN'T BLAME ME FOR ASKING
Let's start with the mortgage crises since that seems to be something most people can agree is at the root of our current economic problems. The notion that we should blame the person applying for a mortgage that they can't afford versus the people and systems that are supposed to screen applicants and then say, "No" is just silly, but that seems to be the position of social and fiscal conservatives.
Let's see where the argument for blaming the applicant takes us......
- Let's say I go to a bank or lender and apply for a mortgage suspecting - or even knowing - I can't pay it back.
- The bank decides not to check me out and deny my application. Why? They know they won't be holding my loan very long. Why not? Because they don't have to and aren't motivated to thanks to the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, a law passed in 1999 while Clinton was president but Congress was controlled by Republicans. Remember that it is, after all, Congress who makes law, not presidents. GLBA was authored by Republican Senator Phil Gramm and Republican Representative Jim Leach, with contributions from Republican Rep and House Commerce Committee Chairman, Tom Bliley. It effectively removed regulations on banks created in 1933 by the Glass-Steagall Act which, itself, was a response to conditions not at all unlike today that caused the Great Depression - an unregulated financial services industry.
- Because sufficient regulations no longer exist thanks to the GLBA, lenders of all kinds - including banks - can now package and sell my loan with thousands of others to someone else and wash their hands of the initial risk of lending me money. No reason to deny my application if they aren't worried about me paying it back - that's someone else's worry now.
So what should we expect will happen? No one will deny my loan application because there's money to be made quickly by writing the loan and selling the now infamously "toxic asset" to someone else. Well, here's what will and did seem to happen...
- I and lots of people will get mortgages we don't qualify for
- The re-packaged investments will be sold to someone else
- Those packaged securities will become worthless because not enough people can pay them back, and
- The financial services companies who used to be regulate banks but who no longer fall under enough regulation and scrutiny will go crying to the very same government who stopped regulating them in the first place to now bail them out.
The Rich make and pass laws to benefit the Rich, and when things go bad we as citizens pay for it through weaker markets and inflated government debt. If we were real Capitalist, we'd let them all fail just like Bear Stearns and Leahman Brothers, but that would create complete anarchy.....actually, it would mean a lot of rich people would lose a lot of money, and that will NEVER happen.
So if you're blaming Clinton for perpetuating the idea of broader home ownership as the reason for our current problems, you really need to look at the simple truth of the matter.
If you're somehow trying to make a connection between broader home ownership and too many unqualified loan applicants, then you really have to blame GLBA and greed for that. Home ownership is still a great idea for our society, but deregulating the lenders and blaming the borrower doesn't make sense.
RICH REPUBLICANS AND THE MIDDLE CLASS
Plain and simple, the current economic problems can be traced back to when Republicans had a Congressional majority and could create laws that allowed their supporters and constituents in big business and especially big finance to maximize return and minimize risk. As a result of GLBA, their big money supporters were able to create Bank of America, Citigroup, and J.P. Morgan Chase.
Pretty soon, financial markets were a free-for-all, just as they had been before the Great Depression. Firms that had once been regulated so that they wouldn't fail were now buying and selling every imaginable type of security without rules, including mortgages that never would have been approved to begin with which are now re-packaged as some kind of investment vehicle.
The American Middle Class once again allowed themselves to be duped by the wealthy and powerful. It's not the borrowers fault if they are lent money they can't repay. The lender is supposed to say, "No" if they know the only way they make money is if the borrower pays them back. The lack of regulation allowed - hell, encouraged - those loans to written and then sold off as investments so that the rich could get richer off of the transaction without any regard for the borrower or the affects that so much failed lending could have on everyone and the economy.
The lack of regulation on the banking industry is the classic fox in charge of the hen house. It's easy to see that a few very smart and very rich people understood how to make a great deal of money out of the house of cards that was the real estate bubble.
THE FATHER OF SMALLER GOVERNMENT
The lack of regulation actually brings us to Mr. Smaller Government himself, Ronald Reagan, and his fed chairman, Mr. Greenspan, who convinced us that smaller was better. No need to regulate banks as had been done since the Depression and the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933. This is America, land of free markets! Let the markets decide! (Translation: Let Rich Republicans Decide)
Yes, this is America and so that means we have only ourselves to blame or thank for who we elect, the markets we create, and the consequences of our decisions. So if anyone is going to go back and blame Clinton for wanting more people to own homes, we must go back just a little further to Ronald Reagan.
Reagan ballooned the federal deficit to it's largest amounts ever (to that point in time) after getting elected on the "government's not the answer to the problem, government is the problem" fable. Clinton left office with a federal surplus which W proceeded to totally squander by giving it to the rich in the form of tax cuts. Remember, too, the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq have never been accounted for in the federal budget. The piper isn't even close to being paid when it comes to the federal deficit.
So who really is the party of fiscal responsibility? Make no mistake, Republicans talk a grass-roots, family values game but that's a ruse intended - and seemingly working extremely well - to convince middle America that they are the Republican party core. Wrong. The wealthy is the real Republican party core. The religious-right, pro-life, Creationist, white-bread American is just the uniformed and ill-advised pawn in their game. They are easily convinced that so-called tax-and-spend liberals, job-stealing illegal immigrants, and unfair (meaning unregulated) foreign markets and labor practices are to blame for our troubles.
We only have ourselves to blame.
A FINAL THOUGHT ON CONSUMERISM, FOREIGN LABOR, AND OUR ECONOMY
When it comes to foreign and domestic markets and labor, we only need to look in the mirror. Consider the goods and services we consume, how that affects the economy, and what it means to domestic and overseas markets and societies, including China.
Any business is in business to do something profitably. Businesses who outsource everything possible to overseas markets like China do so in order to lower operating expenses and maximize profits on the goods and services they sell and we buy from them.
Hey, we don't want government to tell them or us what we can and can't do, right? No need to regulate business, right? This is America, land of the free and free markets! Let us as producers and consumers drive the market!
So if we as consumers....
- weren't always encouraging businesses to lower costs by constantly demanding and buying cheaper and cheaper goods (the WalMart affect)
- were more willing to elect leaders who put the needs of the American middle class worker ahead of the corner office CEO maybe with proper tariffing and changes to NAFTA - George H.W. Bush's baby, by the way, and
- stopped believing red herrings like illegal aliens taking all of the good paying jobs (yeah, like picking vegetables and raking lawns) thrown at us by right-wing news sources like Fox, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage and Quinn and Rose as the cause of our economic problems,then maybe we wouldn't be in such a mess.
In a democracy, we have some power by virtue of our ballot. So long as we allow ourselves to be fooled into thinking that the Republican party in this day and age is anything but a party of the rich, we'll keep going through cycles where they come to power every so often, make changes that only benefit the rich like deregulating markets and cutting taxes for the wealthy under the total lie of Reagan's failed "smaller government" and "trickle-down economics" theories, and we'll be stuck once again holding the short end of the stick.
It really is something to see - middle class Americans somehow thinking that Republicans are in our corner. I don't get it. The past 3 Republican administrations - Reagan, Bush 41, and especially the last 8 years under W have proved that to me. Look at how W took Reagan's failed philosophies - and the deficit - to heights unimaginable. When were we last really prospering? Wasn't it under Clinton?
For now it seems the majority of Americans have awoken from the nightmare of Republican dogma and are at least willing to try something different. After all, you know the definition of insanity, right? - doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.