Payne: Levin’s JP Morgan scapegoat

Posted by hpayne on May 13, 2012

“(This) is an exact description of the type of risk-taking that got us into this financial crisis and recession,” said Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley in a joint news conference with Michigan Senator Carl Levin this week jumping on a $2 billion loss by JP Morgan as evidence that banks caused the 2008 financial crisis and that they need even more federal regulation.

That’s rich.

Actually, Carl Levin and his fellow Washington meddlers caused the 2008 financial crisis with years of excessive intervention in the U.S. housing market. Their actions since then – echoed by a clueless mainstream media – have been to try and rewrite the history books even as their renewed attempts at regulation are only further deepening America’s economic crisis.

Yes, a ticking time bomb of recklessly-bundled, credit-challenged mortgage securities eventually went off, cratering the housing market and crippling the taxpayer-backed U.S. banking system. But those mortgages would not have been issued in the first place were it not for Levin’s relentless push to weaken mortgage lending standards by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

The Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), a regulatory poison pill prescribed by Dr. Levin himself, is at the root of the 2008 financial collapse – and proof that less Washington, not more, is the key to a healthy American economy.

Using the CRA, say experts, Democrats and housing activists had long ago planted the seeds for the next decade’s housing debacle. “Both ACORN and the Clinton administration were working together to impose large numerical targets or ‘set asides’ (really a sort of poor and minority loan quota system) on Fannie and Freddie,”reported National Review’s Yuval Levin (no relation) in 2008. ” Eventually ACORN got what it wanted. In early 1994, the Clinton administration floated plans for committing $1 trillion in loans to low- and moderate-income home-buyers, which would amount to about half of Fannie Mae’s business by the end of the decade. Thissweeping debasement of credit standards was touted by Fannie Mae’s chairman, chief executive officer, and now prominent Obama adviser James A. Johnson. This is also the period when Fannie Mae ramped up its pilot programs and local partnerships with ACORN, all of which became precedents and models for the pattern of risky subprime mortgages at the root of today’s crisis.”

Republican critics of this reckless practice read the tea leaves of disaster and attempted to strengthen lending standards. Levin would have none of it.

“I rise to speak about the Community Reinvestment Act (that encourages) banks to serve the credit needs of the entire community including low and middle income areas.,” said Levin in 1999. “I oppose the provisions weakening the CRA.”

The rest is history as subprime lending institutions made bad loans under lax federal standards, pols like Levin basked in the warmth of increased American home ownership, the lenders quickly turned the bad loans over to Fannie and Freddie, who in turn handed them to the secondary mortgage market where they were bundled into financial instruments waiting to explode.

“ACORN used CRA and Democratic sympathizers (that’s Carl) to entangle Fannie and Freddie and the entire financial system in a disastrous disregard of the most basic financial standards,” concludes NR’s Levin.

And now Michigan’s senior senator has the gall to lecture JP Morgan on risky financial practices.

“The enormous loss J.P. Morgan announced today is just the latest evidence that what banks call ‘hedges’ are often risky bets that so-called ‘too big to fail’ banks have no business making,” asserted Levin on Thursday (“enormous” is an overstatement as $2 billion is a mere 0.1 percent of the bank’s assets). Levin is now pushing amendments to the Dodd-Frank financial regulation, regulation that Michigan businessmen tell me has dried up capital markets and is one of the key reasons the economic recovery has been so slow.

Wall Street Journal financial writer Holman Jenkins sneered at Levin’s presumption: “Uh huh. Banks that refrain from risk aren’t banks. And expecting regulators to distinguish good hedges from ‘risky bets,’ as (Levin’s new regulation) requires, is to expect regulators to be better bankers (for a lot less pay) than one of the best bankers, (JP Morgan’s) Dimon, has shown himself to be.”

Indeed, The Journal reported this weekend, the intention of JP Morgan’s (ultimately disastrous) hedging was aimed at making “bets aimed at shielding the bank from the market fallout of Europe’s deepening mess.”

And why is Europe in a mess? Because of massive debt created by excessive government spending and unsustainable public sector union pension liabilities. And who is planting the seeds for similar future debt implosion in the U.S.?

Yes, Senator Carl Levin and his fellow Democrats.


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