There is no doubt that Fannie and Freddie enabled the subprime neurosis, but for certain conservatives they are virtually the only malefactors worth noting. The dirge goes like this: Fannie and Freddie were buying up subprime mortgages, and they were doing it for (liberal) political reasons. Mortgage originators thus had no choice but to hand out mortgages like candy. Had market forces been in charge, loans would, no doubt, have been administered with a rigor and sternness to make John Calvin blanch.
I asked Bill Black, a professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and an authority on the Savings and Loan debacle of the 1980s, what he thought of the latest blame offensive. He pointed out that, for all their failings, Fannie and Freddie didn’t originate any of the bad loans — that disastrous piece of work was done by purely private, largely unregulated companies, which did it for the usual bubble-logic reason: to make a quick buck.
Most of the mistakes for which we are paying now, Mr. Black told me, were actually made “by four entities that under conservative economic theory should have exercised effective market discipline — the appraisers, the originators of the mortgages, the rating agencies, and the investment banking firms that packaged the subprime mortgage-backed securities.” Instead of “disciplining” the markets, these private actors “served as the four horsemen of the financial apocalypse, aiding the accounting fraud and inflating the housing bubble.” It is they, Mr. Black says, who “turned a crisis into a catastrophe.”
Read the whole thing.
The Washington Post takes a look at the fall of New York and the potential rise of Shanghai or other cities in its place.
With U.S. investment houses tumbling into bankruptcy, consolidating operations or transforming themselves into more closely regulated commercial banks, Wall Street’s reputation as the prime address to raise capital, seek investment advice or trade securities is no longer rock-solid.