Six Rebuttals to the Argument that Congress or Fannie and Freddie Caused the Crisis

by Guest Author Mike Konczal

Sigh. Mayor Bloomberg:

“It was not the banks that created the mortgage crisis. It was, plain and simple, Congress, who forced everybody to go and give mortgages to people who were on the cusp… But they were the ones who pushed Fannie and Freddie to make a bunch of loans that were imprudent, if you will. They were the ones that pushed the banks to loan to everybody.”

It seems there are people who can’t accept that some markets, particularly financial ones, are disastrous when completely unregulated — and thus find any far-fetched excuse to blame the government instead. Since this line of argument continues to pop up, how should one respond to the idea that Congress and Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac caused the housing crisis? Here are six facts to back you up:

Lenders Put the Lies in Liar’s Loans and Bear the Principal Moral Culpability

By William K. Black

A reader has asked several important questions about liar’s loans that are critical to understanding the causes of the ongoing U.S. crisis. By 2006, half of all loans called “subprime” were also liar’s loans. Roughly one-third of all home loans made in 2006 were liar’s loans. The crisis was originally called a “subprime” crisis, but it was always a liar’s loan crisis. The reader is correct to inquire about causation and moral culpability… Yes, “liar’s” loans are what the industry called “stated income” and “alt-a” loans when they were talking among themselves. Income was the primary category that was “stated” – i.e., listed without any verification as to accuracy – in a liar’s loans. Some liar’s loans, however, also “stated” employment, assets, and liabilities. “Stated income” is a euphemism for a liar’s loans, but it is at least honest about its insanity. Readers get it right immediately – they understand that no honest mortgage lender would make loans on this basis. (I expand on this point below.)