Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Harvard Student Takes on Barney Frank Over His Role In The Economic Melt-Down (Video)

It all started with a question: "How much responsibility, if any, do you have for the financial crisis?"

Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and a conservative Harvard law student debated over how Frank should have handled his role as the House Chairman of the Financial Services Committee. Frank was at Harvard University for a speech at the Kennedy School of Government.

Frank said the student wasn't backing up his claims, invoking some laughter from the crowd, and the student told Frank he wasn't answering his question.

This student was absolutely incredible! "You're a public representative, I'm a student... it does allow me to ask you a question. I'm waiting for an answer."

Frank acts like a deranged lunatic while this student was intelligent, calm and rational.

Frank adds there is a "systematic right-wing attack to try and divert the blame." It amazes me how Frank continues to act like a child, knowing full-well that he shares a substantial amount of the blame for sub-prime mortgages which contributed to the current recession.

Here are some more facts about President warnings and attempts to avoid the housing collapse caused, in large part, by Freddie and Fannie.
President Bush's efforts over the years, not once, but several from The White House:

2001 April: The Administration's FY02 budget declares that the size of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is "a potential problem," because "financial trouble of a large GSE could cause strong repercussions in financial markets, affecting Federally insured entities and economic activity."

2002 May: The President calls for the disclosure and corporate governance principles contained in his 10-point plan for corporate responsibility to apply to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. (OMB Prompt Letter to OFHEO, 5/29/02)

2003 September: Treasury Secretary John Snow testifies before the House Financial Services Committee to recommend that Congress enact "legislation to create a new Federal agency to regulate and supervise the financial activities of our housing-related government sponsored enterprises" and set prudent and appropriate minimum capital adequacy requirements. 2004 February: The President's FY05 Budget again highlights the risk posed by the explosive growth of the GSEs and their low levels of required capital, and called for creation of a new, world-class regulator: "The Administration has determined that the safety and soundness regulators of the housing GSEs lack sufficient power and stature to meet their responsibilities, and therefore…should be replaced with a new strengthened regulator." (2005 Budget Analytic Perspectives, pg. 83)

2005 April: Treasury Secretary John Snow repeats his call for GSE reform, saying "Events that have transpired since I testified before this Committee in 2003 reinforce concerns over the systemic risks posed by the GSEs and further highlight the need for real GSE reform to ensure that our housing finance system remains a strong and vibrant source of funding for expanding homeownership opportunities in America… Half-measures will only exacerbate the risks to our financial system." (Secretary John W. Snow, "Testimony Before The U.S. House Financial Services Committee," 4/13/05)

2007 August: President Bush emphatically calls on Congress to pass a reform package for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, saying "first things first when it comes to those two institutions. Congress needs to get them reformed, get them streamlined, get them focused, and then I will consider other options." (President George W. Bush, Press Conference, The White House, 8/9/07)

2008 February: Assistant Secretary David Nason reiterates the urgency of reforms, says "A new regulatory structure for the housing GSEs is essential if these entities are to continue to perform their public mission successfully." (David Nason, Testimony On Reforming GSE Regulation, Senate Committee On Banking, Housing And Urban Affairs, 2/7/08)

March: President Bush calls on Congress to take action and "move forward with reforms on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. They need to continue to modernize the FHA, as well as allow State housing agencies to issue tax-free bonds to homeowners to refinance their mortgages." (President George W. Bush, Remarks To The Economic Club Of New York, New York, NY, 3/14/08)

April: President Bush urges Congress to pass the much needed legislation and "modernize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. [There are] constructive things Congress can do that will encourage the housing market to correct quickly by … helping people stay in their homes." (President George W. Bush, Meeting With Cabinet, the White House, 4/14/08)

May: President Bush issues several pleas to Congress to pass legislation reforming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac before the situation deteriorates further. "Americans are concerned about making their mortgage payments and keeping their homes. Yet Congress has failed to pass legislation I have repeatedly requested to modernize the Federal Housing Administration that will help more families stay in their homes, reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to ensure they focus on their housing mission, and allow State housing agencies to issue tax-free bonds to refinance sub-prime loans." (President George W. Bush, Radio Address, 5/3/08) "[T]he government ought to be helping creditworthy people stay in their homes. And one way we can do that – and Congress is making progress on this – is the reform of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. That reform will come with a strong, independent regulator." (President George W. Bush, Meeting With The Secretary Of The Treasury, the White House, 5/19/08) "Congress needs to pass legislation to modernize the Federal Housing Administration, reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to ensure they focus on their housing mission, and allow State housing agencies to issue tax-free bonds to refinance subprime loans." (President George W. Bush, Radio Address, 5/31/08)

June: As foreclosure rates continued to rise in the first quarter, the President once again asks Congress to take the necessary measures to address this challenge, saying "we need to pass legislation to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac." (President George W. Bush, Remarks At Swearing In Ceremony For Secretary Of Housing And Urban Development, Washington, D.C., 6/6/08)

July: Congress heeds the President's call for action and passes reform of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as it becomes clear that the institutions are failing. And just where was The Messiah during all of this?

From The Wall Street Journal

Finally, on the matter of deregulation and the financial crisis, Sen. Obama should consider his own complicity in the failure of Congress to adopt legislation that might have prevented the subprime meltdown.

In the summer of 2005, a bill emerged from the Senate Banking Committee that considerably tightened regulations on Fannie and Freddie, including controls over their capital and their ability to hold portfolios of mortgages or mortgage-backed securities. All the Republicans voted for the bill in committee; all the Democrats voted against it. To get the bill to a vote in the Senate, a few Democratic votes were necessary to limit debate. This was a time for the leadership Sen. Obama says he can offer, but neither he nor any other Democrat stepped forward.

Instead, by his own account, Mr. Obama wrote a letter to the Treasury Secretary, allegedly putting himself on record that subprime loans were dangerous and had to be dealt with. This is revealing; if true, it indicates Sen. Obama knew there was a problem with subprime lending -- but was unwilling to confront his own party by pressing for legislation to control it. As a demonstration of character and leadership capacity, it bears a strong resemblance to something else in Sen. Obama's past: voting present.

Heritage reminds us that Obama was involved in defeating reform for Fannie.

In 2004, after a tip from a whistle blower who was later fired, the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (Ofheo) issued a report finding that the government-sponsored entity Fannie Mae had engaged in Enron-like accounting machinations that allowed Fannie to overstate its earnings and underestimate the risk the company faced. The accounting wizardry Fannie engaged in was designed so that Fannie could meet profit targets to maximize bonus payments to company executives like Clinton administration deputy attorney general Jamie Gorelick and Carter administration assistant director for domestic policy Franklin Raines.

For years, conservatives have been critical of how Fannie, and Freddie Mac, have leveraged their government-sponsored advantages (including exemptions from state and federal taxes, lower capital requirements, and the ability to borrow at rates well below those paid by private companies), to create a co-monopoly in the housing finance sector. When Fannie’s accounting scandal came to light in 2004, conservatives pushed hard for reforms to phase out Fannie and Freddie. Led by former Walter Mondale and Barack Obama campaign adviser James Johnson, Fannie and Freddie pushed back hard, raising millions of dollars for members of the relevant oversight committees and opening up “Partnership Offices” that funneled money into various housing projects in districts of key members of Congress.

Fannie also bought off activist groups such as the corrupt Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), which has been indicted, multiple times across the country, for vote fraud (Obama worked closely with ACORN as a street organizer in Chicago). Fannie’s lobbying efforts paid off as liberal politicians such as Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Rep. William Clay (D-Mo.) worked to kill any real reform of Freddie and Fannie. The Washington Post reports: “In an internal memo in 2004, Fannie Mae executive Daniel H. Mudd affirmed what the company’s critics had long contended: In the political arena, ‘we always won’ and ‘we took no prisoners.’”

Fannie was created during the New Deal to make homes more affordable for lower- and middle-income Americans. Freddie was added years later for the same purpose. Fannie and Freddie have long outlived their purpose as the market for repackaging loans as securities is now well developed. When the housing market is booming, they are not needed, and they have both gone well beyond their original mission and are now backing loans for wealthy (witness Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s continued efforts to raise the cap on the size of the loans that Fannie and Freddie can buy).

Many parts of the bill the Senate passed last week only continue the worst aspects of the crony capitalism at the hard of Freddie’s success. This is especially true of the Community Development Block Grant funds that have long been a goal of partisan housing activist groups like ACORN. There is an opportunity here to use the recapitalization the White House is now proposing to re-organize housing finance by breaking up Fannie and Freddie and creating several smaller truly private entities that can compete.

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  1. This is a member of Congress attacking a citizen who is only exercising his right to question actions which Frank clearly refuses to be accountable for. I am saying it is the end of our freedom when government feels this emboldened against the people. -Tucson Mom

  2. The voters of Brookline and Newton, MA should be ashamed of themselves for repeatedly re-electing this incompetent buffoon. It's inconceivable that there isn't anyone more qualified to represent their district. Barney should be the poster child for term limits for the Congress AND Senate.

  3. I'm not going to defend Barney Frank as a paragon of virtue and all that, but come on, from 2001 until Jan 2007 we had a Republican President, Republican Senate and Republican House of Representatives. Until January 2007, the power of the Democratic Party in the House was the same as the power of the Republican Party of 2009 in the House which is to say, virtually none. Further, as anyone with a bit of knowledge on the housing markets know, by 2007 the market had peaked and the AltA/Subprice markets were to close up in mid 2007.

    I'm not defending Frank as blameless and indeed I doubt with respect to Fannie & Freddie the outcome would have been all that much different. But to single out Frank as the cause when he had little power to alter events is factually challenged

  4. Barney should hold a hearing to determine how Barney (and Maxine) were able to slip $12 million in TARP cash to OneUnited Bank in Boston and what role did they play in stopping the busted bank from FDIC seizure.

    Certainly, the fact that Maxine and husband Sidney would have lost some $750,000 "invested" in the bank while Sidney was on the Board of Directors--had no bearing on the matter.

    Barney's hearing should also probe how much in bonuses and "excess compensation" were paid OneUnited "executives"--and, unlike AIG; why they were allowed to keep all the taxpayer cash, the Porsche, the Malibu beach mansion, and so on...

  5. The young man should be commended for his questions and ability to maintain his composure against the attacks from Barney. Right on with everything the student said. Frank did not handle the questioning or give adequate responses at all. He just side-stepped straight questions. I would like to encourage the student. He was very knowledgable, asked great questions, and represented the American people well.

  6. We should DEMAND of the White House to hold Barney Frank & Maxine Waters accountable for their blatant lie (we've all seen the video) that "nothing is wrong" with Fannie & Freddie on Bush's watch. They REFUSED to RE-FORM the existing regulations - that's not a Right Wing accusation-its a fact! He lied then he's lying here-BRAVO for this student with enough gumption to confront Barney "fluffy" Franks, and shame on those in the audience laughing!