McArdle adds this about the bankruptcies, the first of which came in a year when Andrews’ wife and her first husband made more than $126,000:

This is really highly unusual. For starters, the overwhelming majority of people who file bankruptcy do not make anything close to $100,000 a year—the standard estimate when the 2005 bankruptcy reform was passed was that about 80% of filers had household incomes below the median income in their state. The number of affluent people who file twice is even smaller, and has presumably gone down since the 2005 filing largely eliminated abusive serial Chapter 13 filings, which used to be used, often by quite wealthy people, to forestall evictions or foreclosure.

The bankruptcy code requires filers to wait 8 years after a previous Chapter 7 discharge. Barely four months after she became eligible, Patty Barreiro filed again. And the filing shows some suggestion of strategic debt management.

McArdle takes the fact that Andrews makes more than $100,000 a year too far. Dude pays out almost two-thirds of his take-home pay in alimony and child support. That leaves him with $2,777 (at least at the time of the house purchase) to play with. That doesn’t go far in DC, lemme tell you.

But she’s right here:

Nonetheless, he has laid much of the blame onto irresponsible bankers and mortgage brokers. The missing bankruptcies substantially undermine this basic narrative arc of Andrews’ story. Particularly in his book, the bankers are the villains, America’s current troubles are the inevitable denouement of their maniacal greed, and the Andrews household stands in for an American public led, by their own greed and longing and hopeful trust, into the money pit.

It’s hard to argue that Ms. Barreiro was forced into bankruptcy by crazed subprime mortgage lenders in 1998. Greedy bankers certainly didn’t keep her and her first husband from paying their taxes.

It certainly undermines Andrews’ argument, though you might say it reinforces the point about the insanity of the banks’ lending practices. I mean, let’s face it: When somebody’s dangling half a million bucks in your face and telling you you’ll be sitting on huge equity gains shortly (which the Andrews indeed got—for a while), it’s hard not to take it. The mortgage bankers and banks didn’t care: They were spinning this garbage off to the greater fool (buyers of CDOs).

Here’s how Andrews describes how his mortgage broker got him the loan:

. If Plan A didn’t work, he would simply move down another step on the ladder of credibility. Instead of “stating” my income without documenting it, I would take out a “no ratio” mortgage and not state my income at all. For the price of a slightly higher interest rate, American Home would verify my assets, but that was it. Because I wasn’t stating my income, I couldn’t have a debt-to-income ratio, and therefore, I couldn’t have too much debt. I could have had four other mortgages, and it wouldn’t have mattered. American Home was practically begging me to take the money.

Still, the failure to provide the full picture of his wife’s financial history is an embarrassment for Andrews and for the Times.

(h/t Felix Salmon)

Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at