Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Barney Frank: Good riddance

Jennifer Rubin at Right Turn:

I’ll not be sniffling over the departure of Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who announced he’s not running for re-election in 2012. The good news for conservatives seems to be that he threw cold water on the notion that his party could be back in the majority anytime soon. Politico reported:
The kind of inside work I have felt best at is not going to be as productive in the foreseeable future,” Frank told reporters at a news conference in Newton, Mass. “To my disappointment, the leverage you have within the government has substantially diminished.”
Frank also told reporters that his newly drawn district would have been an uphill battle for him.
“It would have been a tough campaign,” Frank said. “I would have a hard time justifying to myself to do it.”
In other words, he might lose and/or his party might not take the majority so he’s throwing in the towel.
My lack of sorrow is really based on two primary objections to his tenure. First, he was an extreme and irresponsible foe of defense spending. Last Friday, he issued yet another blast revealing his indifference to national defense: “Cutting military spending is really essential if we are going to accomplish some of the things the Occupy movement wants to do in terms of fairness.” And who can forget that in 2003, with two ongoing wars, he called for a 25 percent cut in defense spending? He rarely even bothered to make the case that such cuts wouldn’t harm national security. He simply didn’t care; he wanted the money to use for liberal statism.
But his real legacy will be his cluelessness and indifference to reforming Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. As Phil Klein put it: “‘These two entities -- Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- are not facing any kind of financial crisis,’ the New York Times quoted Frank as saying in 2003. ‘The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing.’ Frank received $42,350 in campaign contributions from Fannie and Freddie between 1989 and 2008, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.”
Beginning in 1992 and continuing through 2007, Fannie and Freddie were required to meet affordable housing goals established by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. For most of these years, Frank was the staunchest defender of this policy.
An “affordable” housing mortgage was a loan made to a borrower who was at or below the median income in the area where the home was located. A special sub-goal also required the GSEs to make loans to borrowers who were at or below 60 percent of the median income. These requirements were gradually tightened over time, so that by 2007 55 percent of all mortgages Fannie and Freddie acquired had to be “affordable” under this standard.
There are only so many borrowers with good credit who are at or below the median income in the areas where they live, and there was a lot of competition for Fannie and Freddie.
Of this total, the federal government was responsible--through Fannie and Freddie, FHA, and the CRA--for 19 million of these deficient and risky loans. . . .
On September 29, just before Congress recessed for the election, a few Democratic members of Congress introduced legislation that would extend the CRA to all financial institutions--not just banks. And Barney Frank declared that this bill would be his top priority in the lame duck session after the election.
This was very confusing. If Frank thought it was a “great mistake to push low income people into homes,” why would he favor extending the CRA to the entire financial system? That would mean insurance companies, auto finance companies, credit card firms and securities firms would be required to provide credit and other services--not just mortgages--to the same people who couldn’t afford to repay their mortgages.
Here’s my guess: despite my initial impression, Barney Frank actually doesn’t get it. Instead, his real views had only been imprisoned for the election. When the idea of extending CRA came along, they escaped.
To that neglect and active opposition to reform of Freddie and Fannie one can add his support for a monstrous, unintelligible piece of legislation, “Dodd-Frank,” which is a model for excessive regulation that engenders unintended consequences.
I don’t even bother with his ethics problems stemming from paying a male prostitute who operated out of his home. That the scandal disgraced him and Congress was small potatoes compared to the damage wrought by his policies and those that would have followed had his colleagues gone along with some of his most irresponsible proposals.
To paraphrase William F. Buckley, Jr., Massachusetts would be better served by picking a name out of the phone book than by another two years of Barney Frank. Hopefully, they’ll get someone (Democrat or Republican) a heck of a lot better.

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