The Housing Chronicles Blog: Did the Bush Administration stoke the housing bubble?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Did the Bush Administration stoke the housing bubble?

There's a detailed story in today's New York Times (hat tip: L.A. Land blog) detailing how policies of the Bush Administration and ignoring important warning signs (such as prices rising much faster than associated rents) served to stoke the housing bubble. From the story:

Eight years after arriving in Washington vowing to spread the dream of homeownership, Mr. Bush is leaving office, as he himself said recently, “faced with the prospect of a global meltdown” with roots in the housing sector he so ardently championed.

There are plenty of culprits, like lenders who peddled easy credit, consumers who took on mortgages they could not afford and Wall Street chieftains who loaded up on mortgage-backed securities without regard to the risk.

But the story of how we got here is partly one of Mr. Bush’s own making, according to a review of his tenure that included interviews with dozens of current and former administration officials.

From his earliest days in office, Mr. Bush paired his belief that Americans do best when they own their own home with his conviction that markets do best when let alone.

He pushed hard to expand homeownership, especially among minorities, an initiative that dovetailed with his ambition to expand the Republican tent — and with the business interests of some of his biggest donors. But his housing policies and hands-off approach to regulation encouraged lax lending standards.

Mr. Bush did foresee the danger posed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored mortgage finance giants. The president spent years pushing a recalcitrant Congress to toughen regulation of the companies, but was unwilling to compromise when his former Treasury secretary wanted to cut a deal. And the regulator Mr. Bush chose to oversee them — an old prep school buddy — pronounced the companies sound even as they headed toward insolvency.

As early as 2006, top advisers to Mr. Bush dismissed warnings from people inside and outside the White House that housing prices were inflated and that a foreclosure crisis was looming. And when the economy deteriorated, Mr. Bush and his team misdiagnosed the reasons and scope of the downturn; as recently as February, for example, Mr. Bush was still calling it a “rough patch.”

The result was a series of piecemeal policy prescriptions that lagged behind the escalating crisis.
Click here for full article.


Anonymous said...

Interesting read. A few weeks ago there was a profile on Clinton's HUD Secretary, talking about how he stoked the bubble as well.

Molehill TMI said...

BSA... bubble stokers anonymous would be full of ex-presidents, former Fed chairmen, and legislators galore. We all bit on one hook--we thought we'd struck gold as govt. policy and business converged around 'expanding the universe' of homeownership. We all didn't use good judgment, and created a juggernaut that couldn't last. Boom. See what we think of the NY Times piece on

Anonymous said...

Literally nothing would surprise me about the Bush administration, I think the things that are going to come out after he is gone will make Richard Nixon look like a saint.

Gerard Hagan - Edmonton Homes

Anonymous said...

I read that story, it indeed was an interesting read, the bush administration did ignore so many important warning signs served to stoke the housing bubble.