...Apologists for the mortgage industry claim, as Mr. Greenspan does in his new book, that “the benefits of broadened home ownership” justified the risks of unregulated lending.
But homeownership didn’t broaden. The great bulk of dubious subprime lending took place from 2004 to 2006 — yet homeownership rates are already back down to mid-2003 levels. With millions more foreclosures likely, it’s a good bet that homeownership will be lower at the Bush administration’s end than it was at the start.
Meanwhile, during the bubble years, the mortgage industry lured millions of people into borrowing more than they could afford, and simultaneously duped investors into investing vast sums in risky assets wrongly labeled AAA. Reasonable estimates suggest that more than 10 million American families will end up owing more than their homes are worth, and investors will suffer $400 billion or more in losses.
So where were the regulators as one of the greatest financial disasters since the Great Depression unfolded? They were blinded by ideology...
...Mr. Greenspan dismissed as a “collectivist” myth the idea that businessmen, left to their own devices, “would attempt to sell unsafe food and drugs, fraudulent securities, and shoddy buildings.” On the contrary, he declared, “it is in the self-interest of every businessman to have a reputation for honest dealings and a quality product.”
It’s no wonder, then, that he brushed off warnings about deceptive lending practices, including those of Edward M. Gramlich, a member of the Federal Reserve board. In Mr. Greenspan’s world, predatory lending — like attempts to sell consumers poison toys and tainted seafood — just doesn’t happen.
But Mr. Greenspan wasn’t the only top official who put ideology above public protection. Consider the press conference held on June 3, 2003 — just about the time subprime lending was starting to go wild — to announce a new initiative aimed at reducing the regulatory burden on banks. Representatives of four of the five government agencies responsible for financial supervision used tree shears to attack a stack of paper representing bank regulations. The fifth representative, James Gilleran of the Office of Thrift Supervision, wielded a chainsaw.
Also in attendance were representatives of financial industry trade associations, which had been lobbying for deregulation. As far as I can tell from press reports, there were no representatives of consumer interests on the scene...
So what would the DINOcrat-sponsored thought crime commission make of someone who bothered to point out the government was supporting a predatory lending policy bankrolled by high rolling corporate loan sharks?
...According to the bill, “homegrown terrorists” can be anyone who “… intimidate(s) or coerce(s) the United States government, the civilian population … or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social belief,” a definition broad enough to include Americans who organize mass marches on Washington to “coerce” changes in government policy.
The bill defines “violent radicals” as Americans who “…promot(e) extremist belief system(s) for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious or social change…” - in other words, Americans who have not yet done anything illegal but who, commissioners believe, have thoughts that might lead to violence.
The bill does not target all thoughts (belief systems) that might result in violence, but only thoughts leading to “… force or violence … to promote political, religious or social beliefs,” which is exactly the kind of violence that might result whenever people gather to demonstrate for or against important issues, such as the Iraq war or abortion.
For at least 18 months this “Homegrown-Terrorism and Extremist Belief Commission” will be required to hold congressional hearings around the country, to uncover Americans with “political, religious or social” concerns who commissioners think might be “extreme” and/or potentially violent, whether any of these Americans has committed a crime or not. Virtually any politically, socially or religiously active person or group could be targeted by the commission to find out who is, and who is not, one of the “hidden enemy” among us.
Witnesses who refuse to testify can expect to be held in “contempt of Congress,” as former members of the Bush administration like Harriet Myers have learned recently, and jailed. Witnesses who do testify but say things that commissioners or their staff think are not true can be charged with perjury, or lying to a federal official, as “Scooter” Libby found out. Either way, noncooperative witnesses can face up to a 10-year sentence.
Members of suspect political, religious and social groups, or Americans who might even know people the commission suspects - which certainly will include nonmainstream political parties, certain public advocacy groups, some churches and many mosques - can expect the “commissioners” will want to know … “are you now, or have you ever been … associated with extremists, violent radicals or homegrown terrorists?”
For those who do remember history, this should sound uncomfortably familiar. These are the kinds of questions Americans were compelled to answer when testifying before another “legislative commission” during the anti-communist McCarthy-era witch-hunts...
Who's the terrorist? EPA head Stephen Johnson who won't let the states set their own carbon emissions standards, or Henry Waxman, who demands to know which corporation thought up that harebrained idea.
In the eyes of the Company, there's no doubt who the terrorists are.
The terrorists aren't the jihadists of Saudi Arabia who fly airlines into buildings, according to the thinktanks that rationalize Li'l Boot's fiats. The terrorists are homegrown anti-corporate pro-environmental pro-human rights types. You know, the kind of people Dick Cheneyburton knows want to cut off his cash flow.
There is no question in my mind where vocal opposition to criminal policies would place people opposed to predatory, government-supported corporate action.
After all, the security-industrial state needs warm bodies to incarcerate.