IBD: Carter More to Blame for Financial Crisis Than Bush or McCain

Much as Bush-hating media members conveniently ignore historical events that led to the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, their current finger-pointing at the White House, John McCain, and all Republican politicians for the collapse of the financial services industry lacks any honest assessment of decades-old legislation that laid the groundwork for today's problems.

In particular, 1977's Community Reinvestment Act which required banks and savings institutions to make loans to the lower-income areas in the communities they served.

Despite how integrally tied the current crisis is to this bill enacted by a Democrat-controlled Congress and signed into law by Jimmy Carter, no major media outlet other than Investor's Business Daily and National Review Online mentioned it during last week's market meltdown.

Going against the grain was a highly-informative editorial by IBD Thursday (emphasis added, h/t NBer Gary Hall, photo courtesy About.com):

To hear today's Democrats, you'd think all this started in the last couple years. But the crisis began much earlier. The Carter-era Community Reinvestment Act forced banks to lend to uncreditworthy borrowers, mostly in minority areas.

Age-old standards of banking prudence got thrown out the window. In their place came harsh new regulations requiring banks not only to lend to uncreditworthy borrowers, but to do so on the basis of race.

These well-intended rules were supercharged in the early 1990s by President Clinton. Despite warnings from GOP members of Congress in 1992, Clinton pushed extensive changes to the rules requiring lenders to make questionable loans. [...]

Failure to comply meant your bank might not be allowed to expand lending, add new branches or merge with other companies. Banks were given a so-called "CRA rating" that graded how diverse their lending portfolio was. [...]

In the name of diversity, banks began making huge numbers of loans that they previously would not have. They opened branches in poor areas to lift their CRA ratings.

Meanwhile, Congress gave Fannie and Freddie the go-ahead to finance it all by buying loans from banks, then repackaging and securitizing them for resale on the open market.

That's how the contagion began.

With those changes, the subprime market took off. From a mere $35 billion in loans in 1994, it soared to $1 trillion by 2008.

Readers are strongly encouraged to review this entire fact-filled piece to not only better understand the roots of today's financial crisis, but also to get a sense as to just how absurd media accusations of this all being Bush and McCain's fault are.

That said, from 1989 through 1995, I managed branches for two savings and loans: Imperial Savings, which got taken over by the Resolution Trust Corporation during the S&L bailout, and; Great Western Bank which eventually was purchased by Washington Mutual.

The pressure to comply with CRA was astounding, especially at Great Western as it was expanding throughout the country. Its ability to acquire other institutions was directly related to its CRA rating.

With this in mind, IBD's views concerning this matter are spot on raising a very important question: if the role of news media is to inform the public, why does a LexisNexis search indicate that as this crisis came to a head last week, its connection to CRA, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton was almost completely ignored?

Would such a revelation make it difficult for Obama-loving press outlets to point fingers at George W. Bush and, more importantly, John McCain?

Yes, that's a rhetorical question.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.