Who Can I Blame?

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Not just bystanders anymore. Spencer Platt/Getty Images hide caption

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I guess this is the number one question I get.

No, scratch that. It doesn't come in as a question. It comes in as a statement: It's the Republicans' fault. Or, it's Bill Clinton's fault. Or, it's Alan Greenspan's fault.

First off, I see no evidence that it makes any sense at all to pick one of the parties and decide it's their fault, like there's some battle between sensible economic policy and crazy policy and Democrats are on one side and Republicans on the other.

Nonsense.

Both parties are at fault. Politicians, as a group, nearly ALWAYS choose short-term political expediency over long-term sensible economic policy. Both groups ALWAYS take immediate crises far more serious than long-term risks.

That's the nature of politics.

Democrats and Republicans are equally to blame.

In fact, I would say Jimmy Carter probably stands tall as the lousiest economic manager of the modern era (and he's got some real competition). We are still paying the price for his foolishness. (Write your angry letters now).

So, let's pick out the people we do get to blame (thanks to Charles Morris and Nouriel Roubini's writings for help and inspiration).

- Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter: for spending too much money and pressuring the Fed to pump more cash into the economy to avoid the necessary adjustments caused by the Vietnam War and the oil crisis. The problem didn't go away, of course, it festers and got worse.

- 1970s Fed Chairman Arthur Burns for doing the politicians' bidding instead of responsibly guiding the Fed. He knew better.

- His successor G. William Miller for being a total joke of a Fed chairman. He didn't know better, though he must have suspected he was not the man for the job. (I guess we really have to blame Jimmy Carter for appointing a man with no knowledge or ability to confront one of the greatest financial crises of U.S. history. This was a shockingly irresponsible move by Carter and I shudder to imagine what would happen if a similar corporate hack were running things now.)

- Ronald Reagan for casting the debate as more regulation vs. less regulation rather than smart regulation vs. stupid regulation. Everyone can agree that the U.S. has a lot of stupid regulation that slows the economy without adding any meaningful oversight. Almost nobody argues for no regulation. Reagan could have promoted smart, unobtrusive regulation rather than, simply, weaken lousy regulation. That created vacuums of oversight but left in tact many of the arbitrary rules that troubled Wall Street.

- Bill Clinton for allowing the Glass-Steagall Act to be repealed without adding new regulation. It eliminated the legal divide between investment banks and depository banks without realizing that this would require a total overhaul of regulation.

- George W. Bush and his dad, I'd say, get the least blame of any of these presidents for this crisis. I know that many readers of this blog believe it is, somehow, all George W. Bush's fault. Make the case. I don't see it. I think it would have been lessened if he had kept government deficits lower and had seen the brewing housing bubble and had smarter regulation to avoid it. But this bubble was many decades in the making.

- Alan Greenspan, for keeping interest rates too low and not understanding that asset bubbles can be as dangerous as inflation.

- France and Germany and Japan, for having stupid government rules that restrict economic growth and have forced the U.S. to carry the global weight of financial innovation and economic growth. Simply put, France and Germany and Japan weren't doing enough financially exciting things to attract global investors. So, those investors flooded into the U.S. — the only show on the globe — and that helped fuel the housing bubble.

- Almost every country on earth. For similarly having stupid economic policies that prevent them from growing and attracting smart investment, further funneling the world's investments towards the U.S., where they can create a bubble.

- China for keeping its currency pegged to the dollar, which forces them to keep buying U.S. treasury bills — artificially lowering interest rates and fueling the housing bubble.

- Wall Street investment banks for being too trustful of their risk management software that told them the risks they were taking were, well, manageable. Even the people who wrote the software would have told them they were being too trustful. The risks are greater than you think.

- Everyone in Congress for the last 70 years, for allowing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to continue as a highly risky walking, talking moral hazard: a company built on the model of giving profits to shareholders while forcing the U.S. government to bear the risk. Outrageous.

- You. For enjoying the boom years without paying attention to the potential risks. For thinking that voting for one party or another somehow encourages more responsible policies. For loving the rapidly growing price of your house and using it to buy stuff. For spending more than you make. For imagining that someone out there, one guy, caused this because they, alone, are uniquely greedy and you are not greedy.

This, of course, is a partial list.

Comments

 

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I'm am going to add one. I am beginning to wonder just what are our finest universities producing. One metric I would like to see is just which institutions are producing these business and political leaders. Should there be a serious look at the curriculum? The Economist magazine recently had a reporter attend Harvard Business school and found it delusional. The teach there graduates that they are capable of solving the all worlds problems instead of merely running a business. It has to start somewhere, why not here?

Sent by robert | 9:02 AM | 9-17-2008

Oops, so sorry. In a fit of delusion, I imagined that I had become an NPR op-ed reporter. "They teach their graduates..." For full disclosure, Oregon State Univ.

Sent by robert | 9:29 AM | 9-17-2008

Sure, there is plenty of blame to go around. There were also plenty of us regular citizens that did not blow our home equity on toys and knew from simple observation that the market could not possibly support all the housing, office, and retail space being built at a rapid pace. If we could see this coming why not the experts on Wall Street? I cannot help but think that we have been the victims of gross incompetence and out right thievery.

Sent by Dan | 11:09 AM | 9-17-2008

I will start by saying this:
I am 24 years old - I own 3 businesses. I opened a wealth management account about 14 months ago, at the height of the stock market during the Summer of 07. I pulled all my money OUT of the market in Sept of 07 - every single penny. Why? I knew this was coming. My newly appointed advisors told me I had no idea what I was doing - I told them they had no idea what they were doing, that I was with them to execute things I could not do on an individual level & to keep my money under one roof so it is easier to manage. I told them it is my money, I will make the decisions & while I will listen to your advise I will do what I think is right & so I made the decision & pulled it all out before this crash. I sounded like an arrogant 23 year old. Well, I was right & if I saw this coming - how in the name of _______ did the so-called professionals, power-brokers & regulators not see this!!

Who is to blame?? The above list is pretty good. I will make the quick case that George W Bush is very much to blame for this...and it is a simple case in my mind. Credit Default Swaps - which in my opinion are boarder line illegal - came to true fruition under his watch. That is why we are in this mess - they are unregulated, relatively new & they allows institutions to swap their debt back & forth so many times that in the end it is just all lost & magically becomes an asset. He had 8 years to regulate this. Clinton is to blame as well for the reasons stated above. He should worry a little less about tax breaks for the rich, which is what they amount to & a little more about regulating those people who is giving tax breaks to. In this case, regulation from his administration would have helped the economy a great deal more than his stupid tax breaks that have not worked (just try to make a case that they have). While he was off wasting our taxpayer dollars on just about anything & everything, creating the largest government this country has ever seen...wall street & the housing market were using leveraged money (just like his administration) to grow & grow & grow.

The list above is a pretty good one & yes, this was a long time in the making. But this problem is a financial market issue which was created from a lack of oversight in the past 10 years. So...George Bush was in for the last 8 of 10 years. How is it that he takes the least of the blame??

Sent by Eric | 11:36 AM | 9-17-2008

So, sounds like it was everybody's fault but the bankers/brokers and the Bush's! They were just along for the ride! Blame other countries for our problems!
Typical American worldview. Investors had too much money because other countries wouldn't take it, so we accepted it gladly, creating "liars' loans in the process and fell into this mess. Still not our fault! Right!

Sent by luncheonmeat | 11:46 AM | 9-17-2008

Are we not at (perhaps well past) a tipping point when the question "When is Big, TOO Big" needs to be posed with an objective eye focused not on the competitive or anti-trust aspects of a firm's size, but rather the risk it poses to moral hazard and a host government's balance sheet? That the free market is a force for good is easy enough to justify over time. That free market capitalism as presently exhibited is anything but free and fair is also easy to illustrate.

The idea that the government is the financial source of last resort is implied far too liberally, and politicians seeking campaign support all too easily, with a "wink and a nod", offer firms too much freedom to take risks without enforcing a natural level of a risk-weighted collateral obligation that can be tapped in the event things go awry.

This problem, while currently focused on the financial sector, has played itself out in all other industries over the years, and is systemic in nature. Until honest, responsible and accountable capitalism is practiced, the "free" market is a theoretical farce.

Sent by WilKo | 11:47 AM | 9-17-2008

Are we not at (perhaps well past) a tipping point when the question "When is Big, TOO Big" needs to be posed with an objective eye focused not on the competitive or anti-trust aspects of a firm's size, but rather the risk it poses to moral hazard and a host government's balance sheet? That the free market is a force for good is easy enough to justify over time. That free market capitalism as presently exhibited is anything but free and fair is also easy to illustrate.

The idea that the government is the financial source of last resort is implied far too liberally, and politicians seeking campaign support all too easily, with a "wink and a nod", offer firms too much freedom to take risks without enforcing a natural level of a risk-weighted collateral obligation that can be tapped in the event things go awry.

This problem, while currently focused on the financial sector, has played itself out in all other industries over the years, and is systemic in nature. Until honest, responsible and accountable capitalism is practiced, the "free" market is a theoretical farce.

Sent by WilKo | 11:52 AM | 9-17-2008

Who's not to blame? Those who watched this house of cards be built and refused to participate. Acting prudently by spending less than they made and not gorging themselves as consumers while watching the crazed masses lap up wares which they could not afford (luxury item, new cars, homes "bought" with no underlying assets), the responsible American got the shaft. It is he who did not get consumed by this sense of false wealth greased by the easy credit of domestic and overseas lenders who did not reap the benefits of the last few years but will pay dearly for others' incompetence. There truly is no safety for those who work hard and play by the rules.

Sent by S | 11:52 AM | 9-17-2008

So who do I vote for in November?

Sent by Will | 12:41 PM | 9-17-2008

The best Blog commentary I've read to date. Thank you all for your perspectives, and you Eric, 24 yrs old with this insight, I have hope for the future.

Sent by robert | 12:48 PM | 9-17-2008

I do agree with Robert. Kudos to Adam Davidson and to Eric as well. And just to weigh in, I am very liberal socially, but very conservative in my personal finances (ie, we conserve our funds very carefully, pay extra on our mortgage, PAY OUR BILLS on time). It's not so much a point of pride in our household; rather, it is simply the best way to live, good times, shaky times, bad times. Period.

I will be voting for Obama/Biden in November. I hear a lot of personal responsibility rhetoric from the Right, but I don't really see it reflected in their policies (unless you are poor).

The Vietnam War was mentioned in the blog. Certainly we can look forward to economic fallout from the Iraq and Afghan Wars.

Sent by Will | 12:57 PM | 9-17-2008

Will - Vote for the person that best understands "smart regulation" as opposed to no regulation.
There is plenty of blame and the accusation of greed can be spread to many corners of America.
I also think that it is a shame that those of us who lived prudently and within our means will probably pay as much as those who mortgaged themselves to the hilt.
Over and over again big business has proved that it is not worthy of trust and regulation is the only way to protect society from their greed.
I also say that the American people have to start paying attention to what the Congress and whatever president we have. We have to take responsibility for understanding how the economy works and doesn't work. There really is no such thing as a boom that lasts forever. The piper will be paid.

Sent by jk | 1:01 PM | 9-17-2008

Good concise job of calling a spade a spade. Like Dan, I did not take an equity loan so buy more-get more-spend more. Call me old ( ok I am old) fashioned but I want to pay my house off-soon! I don't need more and I didn't take out a loan to send the grands to college.
Eric-well written--and as my Grandson is a Soph at U of O, and a Business major to book, it scares the s**t out of me to hear you say they are not getting a realistic view of, well, reality. Want to do some mentoring? Take a 19 year old under your obviously intelligent wing/brain and explain what is really happening?

Sent by elle Hayes | 2:43 PM | 9-17-2008

The blame on Bill Clinton "for allowing the Glass-Steagall Act to be repealed without adding new regulation" seems misplaced. The Gramm-Leach-Bliley act of 1999 that repealed it passed in the Senate by a vote of 90-8-1 and the House by a vote of 362-57-15, far over the thresholds to override a presidential veto... so how exactly would Clinton have "not allowed" the act to be repealed?

Sent by Daniel Zimmerman | 2:54 PM | 9-17-2008

I think I might disagree that the Bushes had the least to do with the current economy. The first Bush was President and his brother was deeply involved with the S&L crisis. If something happens on your watch, aren't you at least partially responsible? What about this? I took this from an op-ed by Elliot Spitzer in Feb 2008 (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/02/13/AR2008021302783.html?nav=rss_opinion/columns):

The administration accomplished this feat through an obscure federal agency called the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). The OCC has been in existence since the Civil War. Its mission is to ensure the fiscal soundness of national banks. For 140 years, the OCC examined the books of national banks to make sure they were balanced, an important but uncontroversial function. But a few years ago, for the first time in its history, the OCC was used as a tool against consumers.
In 2003, during the height of the predatory lending crisis, the OCC invoked a clause from the 1863 National Bank Act to issue formal opinions preempting all state predatory lending laws, thereby rendering them inoperative. The OCC also promulgated new rules that prevented states from enforcing any of their own consumer protection laws against national banks. The federal government's actions were so egregious and so unprecedented that all 50 state attorneys general, and all 50 state banking superintendents, actively fought the new rules.
But the unanimous opposition of the 50 states did not deter, or even slow, the Bush administration in its goal of protecting the banks. In fact, when my office opened an investigation of possible discrimination in mortgage lending by a number of banks, the OCC filed a federal lawsuit to stop the investigation.

Sent by Yvonne | 3:02 PM | 9-17-2008

Is now the right time for humble, scholarly college professors to ask their biz-school former classmates: "If you're so rich, why aren't you smart"?

Sent by Elwyn Peterson | 3:20 PM | 9-17-2008

Blame simply lies with the greed (and perhaps stupidity), of people in power at many levels and at various institutions in our government. Some of the detrimental policies are the result of politicians accepting lobbyists' cash and that comes from the greed of the corporate/financial leaders who knew they would benefit from them.

Philosophically speaking, Republicans believe in corporate freedom while Democrats generally believe in personal freedom. We all know who has the bigger capacity to do harm to society.
UH2L
http://www.thingsivenoticed.com

Sent by UH2L | 7:04 PM | 9-17-2008

Blame? This is a dog eat dog world - get used to it. Smart people win, stupid people lose. Period. Get smart because the opportunities right now are outrageous!

Sent by smc | 7:12 PM | 9-17-2008

Not that you can blame "the culture," but surely fee and bonus structures that reward short-term, risky, highly levered investing "strategies," must have some part in this. If a firm encourages taking big bets and is leveraged to the hilt, of course it'll crumble when it makes a losing bet.

An interesting BusinessWeek story warning about this... in 2006.

And don't forget these guys .

Sent by nina | 8:35 PM | 9-17-2008

The question is not who is the blame, but who is the right person to set things on a path to get the economy back on track and implement measures to keep this from happening again

Sent by Bill Hayes | 9:11 PM | 9-17-2008

Uh no, I am in no way to blame for any of this. I have maintained full solvency, with almost no debt for my adult life of 30 years.

I did have never enjoyed the "fruits" of leverage. My automobile is paid for. I do not own a home in the Bay Area, much more prudent to rent over the last 10 years.

I'm willing to take some of the blame for the implosion, though, as I move my cash "dollars" from my bank accounts into gold coins in safety deposit boxes. The bankers can leverage someone else's money now, not mine. They aren't paying me near enough interest for the privilege of loaning my money out.

So, no, I have had no part in this, and I will truly benefit greatly as we move to a cash-on-the-barrelhead economy.

Sent by Dave | 12:19 AM | 9-18-2008

We are almost all to blame - it is so obvious that we have collectively lived beyond our means for the last 10 years. We refuse to elect polticians who will tell us the truth - that we are bankrupt. Obama promises yet more spending and McCain is part of the old guard who got us here.

We have an economy that is based on fiction. I live in a 'nice' neighbourhood and not a single one of my neighbors contributes any real wealth - they are all mortgage brokers, realtors, attorneys or doctors. Who generates the wealth to keep the system going.

Sent by Mark | 12:37 AM | 9-18-2008

Heads should roll! If everyone is to blame then no one is to blame.

Was it really a misplaced trust in risk management software that prevented investment banks from recognizing such newspeak gimmicks as Credit Default Swaps as unsecured high-risk insurance? (and then selling their shame to others?)

In the name of deregulation, do our elected representatives abrogate their responsibility to "protect and defend" without being thrown out of office?

Do appointed government staff get to invite lobbyists to write regulations and laws without being required to disclose their bosses instructions?

In the name of equal time and evenhandedness, does the media get off the hook for reporting opinion and belief as fact?

Shouldn't there be consequences for mistakes, those both deliberate and unintended?

Sent by David Giffen | 12:48 AM | 9-18-2008

...And who was to profit most from these worthless mortgages sold en-masse & then bundled & sold as investment vehicles? Is one to really believe there wasn't behind-the-scenes complicity to gut these firms & share in plunder leaving us, the taxpayer, as the rube?

Sent by Tim Rosenberry | 12:53 AM | 9-18-2008

I say blame the chinese. Afterall, according to congree, are'nt they responsible for everything that's bad about this world!

Sent by Dee Brown | 1:58 AM | 9-18-2008

It *seemed* like the right thing to do to help mom through her divorce by buying her house with the equity I had in mine. I had zero ($0) debt at that time, and I still consider myself as sensible as an average American can be. Now I'm $60k down. "Oops?" I'm not sure it was a mistake to try and help her from a moral standpoint, it didn't seem foolish at all. (Did I mention the house is in Ohio? "Oops" again). My point is that I'm very anxious about what's going on in our economy and I don't care who's to blame, I'd just like to know what the solution is.

Sent by LG | 2:10 AM | 9-18-2008

Oh get a grip! This meltdown is a direct result of conservative economic policies that tilt heavily towards the libertarian.

To try and look impartial by spreading blame evenly is impossible and ridiculous. Don't worry, they won't cut your funding for telling the truth, NPR. This was primarily a republican trainwreck as they've been driving the train.

Sent by Jerry Orlando | 2:24 AM | 9-18-2008

Hi Jerry,

I actually strongly disagree with you.

Many of the key players in the housing crisis--most pointedly Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac--are the opposite of libertarian. Libertarians have hated them since they were founded.

In fact, the existence of two massive government-sponsored companies gobbling up all of the best mortgages played a huge role in pushing the private sector towards riskier mortgages.

Similarly, the repeal of Glass-Steagall was done in a way to create two sectors competing against each other--a government protected (read: FDIC) banking system versus a more free market investment bank system, without the government protection. That pushed the i-banks into riskier business.

All of this--Fannie and Freddie and the Glass-Steagall repeal--are, of course, truly bipartisan entities, though their support seems to have tilted towards the Democrats.

If I wasn't so worried about being impartial, I might say something like: the current crisis is the result of a mixed economy. The government managed too much and too little simultaneously. That created pockets of enormous risk that exploded.

So, no, I don't see this as a direct result of conservative economic policies that tilt heavily towards the libertarian.

Sent by Adam Davidson | 6:00 AM | 9-18-2008

Remember 37 million poor in the USA and more are getting poorer ! Why can't the government bail them out too !

Sent by M.A. | 7:25 AM | 9-18-2008

Here you go, where did this all start It started when the financial wizards said don't worry about record foreclosure rates everything is fine. Well everything wasn't fine. It's ALL build on worthless paper that has no value. If you did'nt take your money out of stocks when they were at 13000 then you are with all the sheep that wall street lead to slaughter. Good luck with all your worthless paper , Maybe you can recycle it for some gas money. Bank are getting what they deserve stop the goverment from bailing them out now!

Sent by Larry Parker | 8:01 AM | 9-18-2008

Fantastic blog. Very informative. It is a lesson in leadership. In the absence of leadership (e.g. regulation, oversight) the subordinate (the unregulated, those needing oversight) will become whatever the leader's rules allow. However, the leader is not allowed to come storming into the room later and scream at the subordinate for screwing up. Stop pointing fingers everyone. Get smart. Pay attention. Take care of yourselves...no one else is going to do it for you.

Sent by Doug Ray | 8:40 AM | 9-18-2008

And last but not least...the media, including the author of this article. Why were they not screaming from the rooftop about this crisis as it was unfolding? Why weren't they calling all the liars what they are...LIARS?

Sent by RobertM | 8:47 AM | 9-18-2008

I think it's the fault of greed without responsibility. When we build an entire system of morality built on nothing more or less than greed, when we "dress up greed and make it look like a virtue," this is the inevitable result.

Sent by george thomas | 8:58 AM | 9-18-2008

As a committed Democrat, I most likely won't vote another way come November. This means that I support Barack Obama with regard to his social policies. However, as I become older, I have become more "fiscally aware". As I watch the news each day and hear of more taxpayer bailouts, I am becoming angry. Business leaders, investment firms, and Congress should all do some serious soul searching and stop penalizing citizens for their mismanagement and greed.

Sent by Bill Hoyt | 9:24 AM | 9-18-2008

In China a 7.9 earthquake causes houses to collapse and kills the people underneath. In America, we are getting crushed under our collapsing mortgages.

In China, people buy houses in cash. In America, we buy houses by going into debt.

In China they practice Capitalism and call it Communism. And in America, where the government is now absorbing and propping up large banking and commercial enterprises, the Federal Government is practicing Communism and calling it Capitalism.

The words labor and worker (perhaps because of an unfortunate assocation with Karl Marx) had almost become dirty words, and the words credit and consumer rushed in to fill the void, and yet this has become the strange habit of our culture.

Among my recommendations: End the use of the word consumer, and restore the uses of the words citizen and worker. The word consumer paints us into a corner. A Consumer is a statistical thing that borrows money to buy things, it's just as simple as that. Everytime you hear a commentator refer to people as "consumers" it distorts much of what is really happening. The word consumer disempowers us as workers and as citizens who would have a role in civic life.

And here's another startling idea: the dollar for years has been backed not by gold, but by the silent, intimidation of unlimited US military power -- namely, nuclear weapons in silos and on submarines.

Sent by John C Graves | 9:44 AM | 9-18-2008

Finally some common sense. I get so tired of the partisan political hacks trying to blame each other when they both had their hands in the cookie jar. Hey congressmen/women, senators and Washington DC this is why Americans are pissed off. We are not stupid and we are tired of the damn blame game and obfuscation of the facts....get your damn act together and start upholding your pledge of office to SERVE the people of this country and not your special interest groups/lobbyists/political parties!!!!!

Sent by David | 9:47 AM | 9-18-2008

Wow! I agree almost completely with a post on NPR! Excellent job, especially the final paragraph.

Sent by David in NH | 9:51 AM | 9-18-2008

I disagree. How am I to blame? I never bought a house. Too expensive. The political parties that I voted for are not in office - I voted for the other guys. Everyone else that came before my voting powers were enabled is not my fault either.

Unfortunately, I'm on the bottom of the rung of this middle-to-ruch class discussion. I never had enough money to spend on anything frivolous - so there was never a "booming year" or "stuff buying" on my part.

I worked since I was in the 7th grade. I have never filed for bankruptcy. No foreclosures in sight. I make an honest living and I still have time to worry about other bigger problems - like what we are doing to our planet and how to help others that can't help themselves. My finances are on the positive side - not booming but comfortable. I still have to work for a couple more decades but, hey, isn't that what responsible citizenship is all about?

This is the market trying to equalize. I think that it is also a reality check for those of us who are in denial. Look around you. What is important? Shelter is shelter. Mother nature or the bastard offspring that man has created will produce weather that will decide if that bungalow on the beach is worthy or not. Ever had a problem trying to feed yourself or your family? If no, then, you are probably doing ok. The lean mindset has always been calling. Join us.

Sent by John G | 10:05 AM | 9-18-2008

I've read all your comments and I have one question to ask. Where are the multi-billions coming from for this bail out? Is it adding to our already multi-trillion dollar debt? Who will pay for this in the long run? OK, that was three questions in one.

Sent by bluestem | 11:01 AM | 9-18-2008

Adam,

Sorry, but the deregulatory atmosphere and promotion of the greed culture was ushered in by the "conservative revolution". If you think liberalism was in any way connected to this you are badly mistaken. Let me ask you, who set the agenda of the last 30 years? What ideology has been dominant for most of that time (even under Clinton)? Democrats were locked in the basement of the Capitol building for much of the time from 94 to 06.

The existence of government mortgage programs didn't force the private mortgage markets to riskier instruments. Greed did, the same greed that conservative ideology is wrapped around, based on and proud of. Fed policies (again, run by conservatives for the better part of 35 years) didn't help.

Read Thomas Frank's book The Wrecking Crew and you'll see how conservatives took entities like Fannie and Freddie and twisted them into vehicles that promoted their agenda while destroying government. A similar thing happened with HUD and EPA under Reagan when the people he put in control of those agencies began destroying them from the inside and changing their missions to something unintended when they were formed. The Bush administration accelerated this destructive methodology in a big way.

I remember once when Adam Sloan of Newsweek wrote a piece blaming "the democratic Congress" for all the wreckage and deficit spending under Reagan. I had to write and inform him that republicans controlled the Senate for 6 of the 8 Reagan years. He wrote back that I was correct. Never corrected his statement, though.

Now we know that there are at least 2 republicans in the media and that reporters can be wrong.

Sent by Jerry Orlando | 11:10 AM | 9-18-2008

One more thing.

What you're attempting to do is blame the guy who invented the matches for what the arsonist has done.

Sent by Jerry Orlando | 11:19 AM | 9-18-2008

The question of the century when Allan Greenspan lowered interest rates didn't he know that it would fuel the subprime lending business and why wasn't a plan in play to regulate these predators?

Sent by James | 11:41 AM | 9-18-2008

Lets blame immorality, including immorality inside of the big religions. Too many churches are not even preaching "God is Love". If we love how can we hurt others? Yet mortgage lenders, car sales people, priests, those running for office are hurting so many people. Lets blame immorality at all levels of society.

Sent by Jose | 1:21 PM | 9-18-2008

Adam Davidson is the smartest man in the universe. Blame everyone on this earth but Davidson for the mess that we are in.We should all thank God for blessing us with Adam Davidson, the one and only.

Sent by Peter | 1:47 PM | 9-18-2008

Hello Bluestern ~

The answer to your question -- where the fresh billions are coming from is from the printing presses of the Federal Reserve. It's just fresh paper and ink. Through some sleight of hand, they wheel that fresh cash over to the Treasury, where they exchange the cash for government bonds. I think that is more or less how it works.

That business of auctioning off govt bonds to investors is really a bit of a supplemental action. You can't raise 85 bil in one fell swoop from private investors. If I have erred, would anyone like to correct me on this point?

The two components of tyranny in any government are the slips of paper that government issues to control it's citizens, and the weapons in it's arsenal. OH, and if you have the ability to delivery a very persuasive speech, that really helps.

Obviously, the easiest way to rule the citizenry is with little slips of paper. It's a lot less messier.

Sent by John C Graves | 1:48 PM | 9-18-2008

What does this article do to help us react to the problem, now that we can no longer deny that there is a problem? Nothing. We need to identify precisely what went wrong so we can fix it. In my opinion, that fix will entail voting for a President who will reregulate the markets. It will entail voting for a Congress who will reregulate the markets. Anyone who denies that such a party exists must be a Republican.

Sent by Big V | 2:59 PM | 9-18-2008

McCain, newfound devotee of regulation, is about the make a speech demanding the head of Christopher Cox, head of the SEC.

Let's see, what political party does Cox belong to? Under what party did he serve in Congress?

Must have been the democrats since this meltdown is their fault.

Sent by Jerry Orlando | 3:01 PM | 9-18-2008

What kind of article is this? It's almost deplete of arguments, just a bit of name dropping. Does this mean that journalism tries to beat the financial sector to the low scores?

The best argument: George Bush jr. has no fault in this crisis, just because the author can't see it?

How about Greenspan's providing cheap credit, which always fuels speculation.

Sent by Robert | 4:01 PM | 9-18-2008

Woah brother.

"Causation" and "responsibility" are frequently misused conceptually. They are usually used to emphasize behavior which had a foreseeable effect, but in this case it seems to include the whole universe of contributing variables. Should we also blame the dollar, because the dollar was the currency we used?

No. The article reads to me like classic misinformation, a concealed attempt to dilute the responsibility of the Bush administration by distributing blame to other agencies.

Let's suppose 10 guys jump on a bus to Las Vegas and take turns driving. The tenth guy falls asleep at the wheel and crashes the bus. Everybody who brought the car to that point has some responsibility, but fault lies with the one in control when the crash occurred.

Its really worse than that here. The great Reagan revolution--i.e., deregulation to "get government off our back"--seems to be ruling principle, and that principle is essentially Republican. The Bush administration not only saw the bubble forming, but benefited from it, as the effect of the bubble was to create a false sense of wealth and prosperity. It sure helped to squeeze them through a close election.

And fault is important, because we use a determination of fault to avoid entrustment to unworthies--those who would crash the bus, and blow ten stop signs along the way.

Sent by Peter Friesen | 4:33 PM | 9-18-2008

Adam-
so it's both Republican and Democrats fault, but mostly Democrats... wha?

The blame game can be childish, but we need to somehow assess policies to see what works. How else can we make a voting decision?

Consider that the repeal of Glass-Steagall Act which allowed much of these risky practices, was introduced by Phil Gramm, McCain's top economics adviser.

Why would people want to elect more of the same? There is nothing confusing about that question.

Sent by Ken Phillips | 4:46 PM | 9-18-2008

Please, someone, make the case for why it's Bush's fault more than anyone else's.

I don't like all the simple accusations. I mean, it's fine to call me an apologist and all.

But the simple fact that Pres. Bush is in office when this happened does not make him fully responsible.

This crisis--by any reckoning--has many causes, many of which date far back before his presidency.

I have no problem with blaming him. But someone, somewhere MAKE THE CASE.

I don't want this to be a forum for purely partisan statements.

Sent by Adam Davidson | 4:56 PM | 9-18-2008

"...70 years, for allowing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to continue as a highly risky walking, talking moral hazard"

I heard this on ToTN the other day also. My understanding is that for its first 30 years Fannie Mae was a government agency, so no moral hazard. (And Freddie Mac didn't exist then.) It looks as though the moral hazard was created by the privatization of Fannie.

Am I missing some earlier aspect of moral hazard?

Sent by Timothy | 5:23 PM | 9-18-2008

So let me get this straight. Bush presides for eight years over the government, which means he oversees the SEC, the Treasury department, the Justice department, the FDIC, and all the federal agencies responsible for regulation. He appoints the fed chairman, all the fed governors, the FCC, the FTC, etc. For much of that time he has a pretty compliant congress of his own party. He approves the budget. He makes major changes to the tax code. He pursues a war that, whatever you think of it, has clearly helped drive up oil prices. He's been responsible for years of deficit spending. And you cannot possibly see his hand in any of the problems now facing the economy? Huh?

Sent by bryan parsons | 7:17 PM | 9-18-2008

Nobody is to blame. All the current happenings have already been prophesied in the Bible. Due to the dwindling and depleted resources, the world is nearing its end. All we have to do is to return to God, despite the differences of beliefs among men. God's Word stands true despite the opposition. It's time now to all the people of the world to rely on the grace or provisions of God, and not to rely on the shaky economy of the world. There are better things than material and temporal prosperity.

Sent by Grace Mamon | 9:35 PM | 9-18-2008

Adam, you sound like Hannity or O'Reilly who, when backed against a wall asks for some sort of definite proof that their statement is valid. Or they simply say," So why DO you hate America?"

No one said Bush was solely responsible. What I said was that REPUBLICANS AND CONSERVATIVES are responsible. Bush being a REPUBLICAN is responsible. He did NOTHING to stop the bubble crowd, even encouraged it with his "ownership society" nonsense. Republicans always encourage materialism and wealth worship. Their whole ideology is based on "harnessing greed and self-interest" as they often like to point out. They make up the bulk of white collar criminals and live for nothing more than MONEY.

Get a clue. The hands off approach to governing and the unleashing of capitalist predators on the country was done by REPUBLICANS. The same REPUBLICANS who ran the country, set the agenda and made the policies of the last THIRTY YEARS.

I'm sorry that you don't like accusations but your post replying to my first one was full of accusations as was your original piece. But like the Congressional republicans, you want to play "spread the blame" now that things have gone wrong. I wonder if republicans (or you) would have been so quick to share the glory had this economy turned into a wonderfully functioning machine of prosperity? DOUBT IT.

Sent by Jerry Orlando | 11:43 PM | 9-18-2008

Timothy:

You are right. I should not have said 70 years. I know better.

Sorry. Thanks for the catch.

Sent by Adam Davidson | 3:24 AM | 9-19-2008

The founding fathers put their lives on the line to form this country...nowadays we're so apathetic that 1/2 of us don't even bother to vote. It's a participatory political structure with hardly any participation. What did people expect? Whatever the '-ism' Capitalism, Communism, Socialism...The system is corrupted & gamed from the top by a select few when left to their devices.

Sent by Tim Rosenberry | 7:58 AM | 9-19-2008

What about the fault of the mass media? All I have heard and learned about the housing bubble since 2005 was from economic blogs (like Calculated Risk), while the mass media spun their story of the strong economy. The unavoidable housing bust brought the credit markets down, which now threatens the whole economy. Why is Comdey Central the only place where they laugh about our leaders and their soothing, contradictory, and self-serving announcements? Grow a spine, Adam Davidsson, and contrast our leaders yesteryear's announcement with what happens today.

Sent by Peter T | 10:22 PM | 9-19-2008

This concept that one company is too large to fail and therefore is entitled to a taxpayer bailout is blameworthy if we are casting about for something to blame. If a company is too big to fail it needs to divest itself until it can safely fail. How much taxpayer money is going in the pocketsj of CEO's and upper management for being astute enough to get some socialism for the rich when their company crashes?

Sent by wberrie | 4:43 PM | 9-20-2008

The main fault should be placed on reporters like you, who did not adequately inform the public, but went blithely along with the Alan Greenspans, University of Chicago professors who helped cause previous economic crises (like Russia, Asia) and yet retained credibility. HOW can you blame the public when the mainstream media did not inform them.

I pulled out of the stockmarket 5 years ago. Why? Because I read stuff by Doug Henwood, Ralph Nader, and others on the left that I NEVER heard reported on NPR, much less Fox, CNN, CBS, etc. NPR years ago went to the basic format of relying on the right-wingers, and you are one of them. Even in this dire crisis, you are still relying on those who never had it right, and don't have the guts to go and admit it, and go find those who DID have it right on the money years ago.

Maybe you want to justify your own biased reporting all these years by saying it's everybody's fault? That's what reporters did for the Iraq War too. "Not our fault that the administration didn't tell the truth. We're only reporters, we leave it up to you to discern whether they are lying." This attitude, the failure to dig beneath the surface, ought to be punished with firings. But because everybody from the reporter to the higher ups let it happen, we will just continue to be disinfored by the likes of reporters like you. Makes me sick to my stomach.

I won't lose a penny, unless the money markets somehow get effected. Again, it was possible to know if you stayed away from NPR as a reliable source, and followed analysts who had it right all along. Will we ever hear from them on NPR from Adam Davidson? Does he even know who they are? Or will he just continue to pull the wool over our eyes, continue the asinine habit of citing University of Chicago advocates of deregulation?

Sent by Rosemary Feurer | 3:36 PM | 9-21-2008