Monday, January 2, 2012

Newest Fox News piece: Obama Has Learned Nothing From the Mortgage Meltdown Mess

My newest piece at Fox News starts this way:

Just days before Christmas, the Obama administration gave Bank of America a big lump of coal, levying a hefty $335 million dollar fine on the company for discriminating against minorities in its lending practices. 

Supposedly Countrywide, a mortgage company bought by Bank of America in 2008, had not given out enough low interest rate loans to minorities from 2004 to 2008.

What the large fine reveals is that President Obama hasn’t learned anything from the recent financial crisis. 

What the president sees as discrimination in awarding a mortgage, lenders saw as wise business decisions. 

If a borrower can’t afford a down payment, Obama appears to view charging a higher interest rate as discrimination. Lenders also think that they shouldn’t treat borrowers whose sole source of income is welfare or unemployment insurance, the same as those applicants who have a job. But Obama, again, appears to view this as discrimination.

There is obviously a problem with no down payments: if the price of the house falls so that it is worth less than the loan, some people will default and walk away. Similarly, when unemployment insurance or welfare runs out, borrowers might find they can’t keep paying their mortgage.

The Equal Credit Opportunity Act the Obama administration used to impose this fine was exactly what helped cause the mortgage crisis by forcing lenders to make risky loans that they didn’t want to make. 
Yet, just last month, Obama put the blame for these risky loans going bad on banks for their “breathtaking greed” that “plunged our economy and the world into a crisis.”

Countrywide, a leading lender of subprime mortgages, was already issuing too many risky loans. Indeed, it was the poster child for doing what the government wanted. 
In 2002, Countrywide adopted its “No Income/No Asset Documentation Program.” Borrowers could get a loan with just 5 percent down. The big government mortgage bundlers, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, bought these mortgages and encouraged Countrywide to expand the program. By the first half of 2006, almost two-thirds of Countrywide’s subprime loans lacked any down payment. . . .

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