In a must-read NYT article that has infuriated the White House, the Republicans' role in the funny money economy of the last decade and the explosion of bad mortgages is analysed:
For much of the Bush presidency, the White House was preoccupied by terrorism and war; on the economic front, its pressing concerns were cutting taxes and privatizing Social Security. The housing market was a bright spot: ever-rising home values kept the economy humming, as owners drew down on their equity to buy consumer goods and pack their children off to college.
Lawrence B. Lindsey, Mr. Bush’s first chief economics adviser, said there was little impetus to raise alarms about the proliferation of easy credit that was helping Mr. Bush meet housing goals. “No one wanted to stop that bubble,” Mr. Lindsey said. “It would have conflicted with the president’s own policies.”
"No one wanted to stop that bubble...." Famous last words.
If this article is accurate, George Bush did as much or more to increase low-income mortgage lending than the Democrats in Congress, contrary to what many McCain supporters were alleging in the campaign this year.
Concerned that down payments were a barrier, Mr. Bush persuaded Congress to spend up to $200 million a year to help first-time buyers with down payments and closing costs. And he pushed to allow first-time buyers to qualify for federally insured mortgages with no money down. Republican Congressional leaders and some housing advocates balked, arguing that homeowners with no stake in their investments would be more prone to walk away, as Mr. West did. Many economic experts, including some in the White House, now share that view.
The president also leaned on mortgage brokers and lenders to devise their own innovations. “Corporate America,” he said, “has a responsibility to work to make America a compassionate place.” And corporate America, eyeing a lucrative market, delivered in ways Mr. Bush might not have expected, with a proliferation of too-good-to-be-true teaser rates and interest-only loans that were sold to investors in a loosely regulated environment.
“This administration made decisions that allowed the free market to operate as a barroom brawl instead of a prize fight,” said L. William Seidman, who advised Republican presidents and led the savings and loan bailout in the 1990s. “To make the market work well, you have to have a lot of rules.” But Mr. Bush populated the financial system’s alphabet soup of oversight agencies with people who, like him, wanted fewer rules, not more.