Do Facts Matter?
By Thomas Sowell
Abraham Lincoln said, "You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you can't fool all the people all the time."
Unfortunately, the future of this country, as well as the fate of the Western world, depends on how many people can be fooled on election day, just a few weeks from now.
Right now, the polls indicate that a whole lot of the people are being fooled a whole lot of the time.
The current financial bailout crisis has propelled Barack Obama back into a substantial lead over John McCain-- which is astonishing in view of which man and which party has had the most to do with bringing on this crisis.
It raises the question: Do facts matter? Or is Obama's rhetoric and the media's spin enough to make facts irrelevant?
Fact Number One: It was liberal Democrats, led by Senator Christopher Dodd and Congressman Barney Frank, who for years-- including the present year-- denied that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were taking big risks that could lead to a financial crisis.
It was Senator Dodd, Congressman Frank and other liberal Democrats who for years refused requests from the Bush administration to set up an agency to regulate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
It was liberal Democrats, again led by Dodd and Frank, who for years pushed for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to go even further in promoting subprime mortgage loans, which are at the heart of today's financial crisis.
Alan Greenspan warned them four years ago. So did the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers to the President. So did Bush's Secretary of the Treasury, five years ago.
Yet, today, what are we hearing? That it was the Bush administration "right-wing ideology" of "de-regulation" that set the stage for the financial crisis. Do facts matter?
We also hear that it is the free market that is to blame. But the facts show that it was the government that pressured financial institutions in general to lend to subprime borrowers, with such things as the Community Reinvestment Act and, later, threats of legal action by then Attorney General Janet Reno if the feds did not like the statistics on who was getting loans and who wasn't.
Is that the free market? Or do facts not matter?
Then there is the question of being against the "greed" of CEOs and for "the people." Franklin Raines made $90 million while he was head of Fannie Mae and mismanaging that institution into crisis.
Who in Congress defended Franklin Raines? Liberal Democrats, including Maxine Waters and the Congressional Black Caucus, at least one of whom referred to the "lynching" of Raines, as if it was racist to hold him to the same standard as white CEOs.
Even after he was deposed as head of Fannie Mae, Franklin Raines was consulted this year by the Obama campaign for his advice on housing!
The Washington Post criticized the McCain campaign for calling Raines an adviser to Obama, even though that fact was reported in the Washington Post itself on July 16th. The technicality and the spin here is that Raines is not officially listed as an adviser. But someone who advises is an adviser, whether or not his name appears on a letterhead.
The tie between Barack Obama and Franklin Raines is not all one-way. Obama has been the second-largest recipient of Fannie Mae's financial contributions, right after Senator Christopher Dodd.
But ties between Obama and Raines? Not if you read the mainstream media.
Facts don't matter much politically if they are not reported.
The media alone are not alone in keeping the facts from the public. Republicans, for reasons unknown, don't seem to know what it is to counter-attack. They deserve to lose.
But the country does not deserve to be put in the hands of a glib and cocky know-it-all, who has accomplished absolutely nothing beyond the advancement of his own career with rhetoric, and who has for years allied himself with a succession of people who have openly expressed their hatred of America.
Deregulation Not to Blame for Financial Woes
By Peter Wallison
The Democrats are wrong in claiming that financial services deregulation is to blame for the current financial crisis--if anything, the financial sector has seen increased regulation since the savings and loan collapse in the 1980s. The lax supervision of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which Republicans sought to strengthen in 2005, is the true culprit of this financial crisis.
In the debate on September 26, Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama argued that the current crisis in the financial markets is the result of Republican deregulation.
The advertising from his campaign has been saying the same thing, and this claim is becoming a fixed element in the talking points of Democratic candidates this year.
The credibility of the charge depends on ignoring several important facts:
-- There has been a great deal of deregulation in our economy over the last 30 years, but none of it has been in the financial sector or has had anything to do with the current crisis. Almost all financial legislation, such as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Improvement Act of 1991, adopted after the savings and loan collapse in the late 1980s, significantly tightened the regulation of banks.
-- The repeal of portions of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999--often cited by people who know nothing about that law--has no relevance whatsoever to the financial crisis, with one major exception: it permitted banks to be affiliated with firms that underwrite securities, and thus allowed Bank of America Corp. to acquire Merrill Lynch & Co. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. to buy Bear Stearns Cos. Both transactions saved the government the costs of a rescue and spared the market substantial additional turmoil.
None of the investment banks that got into financial trouble, specifically Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., were affiliated with commercial banks, and none were affected in any way by the repeal of Glass-Steagall.
It is correct to say that there has been significant deregulation in the U.S. over the last 30 years, most of it under Republican auspices. But this deregulation--in long-distance telephone rates, air fares, securities-brokerage commissions, and trucking, to name just a few sectors of the economy where it occurred--has produced substantial competition and innovation, driving down consumer costs and producing vast improvements and efficiencies in our economy.
The Internet, for example, wouldn't have been economically possible without the deregulation of data-transfer rates. Amazon.com Inc., one of the most popular Internet vendors, wouldn't have been viable without trucking deregulation.
-- Republicans have favored financial regulation where it was necessary, as in the case of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, while the Democrats have opposed it. In 2005, the Senate Banking Committee, then under Republican control, adopted a tough regulatory bill for Fannie and Freddie over the unanimous opposition of committee Democrats. The opposition of the Democrats when the bill reached the full Senate made its enactment impossible.
Barack Obama did nothing; John McCain endorsed the bill in a speech on the Senate floor.
-- The subprime and other junk mortgages that Fannie and Freddie bought--and the market in these mortgages that their buying spawned--are the underlying cause of the financial crisis. These are the mortgages that the Treasury Department is asking for congressional authority to buy. If the Democrats had allowed the Fannie and Freddie reform legislation to become law in 2005, the entire financial crisis might have been avoided.
Policies that center on deregulation are probably hard for the voting public to grasp, and that has allowed Democratic candidates to spread the idea that there is a connection between deregulation and the current crisis. But an Obama victory, based in part on the claim that deregulation has caused the financial crisis, will create a mandate for new regulation where it isn't necessary and will do harm to our economy.