Archive for the ‘Housing Market’ Category


Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013



Wednesday, May 1st, 2013



Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

April 28, 2013

Government as Entropy

By Daniel Payne

On May 15th, 1862, the thirty-seventh Congress passed into law the creation of the United States Department of Agriculture. Its purpose, as the law explained, was “to diffuse among the people of the United States useful information on subjects connected with agriculture in the most general and comprehensive sense of that word, and to procure, propagate, and distribute among the people new and valuable seeds and plants.”

How charming; how quaint. Over one hundred and fifty years later, the USDA is still going strong; from its humble beginnings; it now commands hundreds of billions of dollars in Federal funds and more than 100,000 personnel. What is it doing with all that manpower, and all that cash? Is it spreading “useful information” about agriculture? Is it passing out “new and valuable seeds and plants?” Are we getting the most bang for our agricultural buck?

Er, not quite, or rather not merely. As came to light this week, the USDA has distributed a flyer that assures Mexican immigrants that they can acquire food stamp benefits for their children without proper documentation — that is to say, illegal immigrants may still be eligible for an EBT card. The news is hardly surprising; what’s remarkable is that the USDA is actively advertising it.

But that’s what happens to bureaucracy over time. The USDA was founded on a relatively simple set of principles: promote American agriculture. That was it; that was pretty much its whole raison d’être. In one hundred and fifty years it apparently learned a few new tricks, the least of which is teaching people how to live off the public dole. The USDA now boasts an Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, an Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, and an Economic Research Service, to name a few of its bureaucratic functions; it manages offices of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Tribal Relations, Communications, Nutrition Policy and Promotion, the Executive Secretariat, and many others; it hath pronounced on the “Harmonized Tariff Schedule” and “International Phyosanitary Standards” and lots of other fascinating topics.

How much of this is “useful information?” about agriculture? How much of it is regulatory folderol? (more…)



Thursday, April 11th, 2013


Copying Democrats’ Identity Politics A Loser


 Posted 03/27/2013 05:14 PM ET

Read More At Investor’s Business Daily:
Follow us: @IBDinvestors on Twitter | InvestorsBusinessDaily on Facebook

Republicans lost the election by failing to pin the Great Recession on Democratic housing policies mandating affirmative-action lending. They’ll lose even worse if they adopt Democratic racial politics.

Democrats have perfected the dark art of identifying and dividing Americans by race and class and promising favored groups special economic “rights” and entitlements. Republicans will always lose to them in a pandering contest.
Republicans win — and win big — when they transcend tribal politics and appeal to all Americans as individuals, as Ronald Reagan did in 1980. They also win when they shoot straight with voters, using hard facts and logic to explain tough issues.
Mitt Romney failed to do this. He made a strategic mistake by not re-emphasizing the origins of the mortgage crisis and recession. By letting stand President Obama’s false narrative that “Wall Street fat cats” like him caused the mess that Obama couldn’t get us out of, Romney became a victim of that very narrative.
The Republican National Committee thinks the long primary season doomed Romney. In fact, the primaries offered a raft of free airtime to sort fact from fiction about why so many Americans lost their jobs, incomes, home equity and retirement.
Only, Romney never took advantage of it.
He had numerous prime-time chances to explain to voters that Washington, not Wall Street, was responsible for the vast majority (70%) of the 28 million subprime and other weak home loans that went bust in 2008 (by virtue of the “affordable housing” quotas government enforced through HUD-regulated Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the FHA and through the Community Reinvestment Act).
He could have easily documented how the government ordered lenders to “target” low-income minorities directly in marketing efforts to satisfy regulators; how the lines between subprime and prime were “blurred,” intentionally, on government orders; and how Obama doubled down on these reckless housing policies, even reappointing many of the original architects of President Clinton’s disastrous minority homeownership strategy.
Once lower affirmative-action lending standards — nothing down, weak credit — were incorporated into Fannie’s and Freddie’s automated underwriting programs, they became the standard across the entire mortgage industry for all borrowers. They also contaminated the mortgage-backed securities industry.
During those 20 televised debates, Romney could have at least forced some national media coverage about the government’s role in the crisis. It could have changed public opinion just enough to win the election.
He didn’t. Instead, exit polls show a majority of voters blamed Republicans and Wall Street even for Obama’s jobless recovery (more…)


Saturday, February 23rd, 2013



DECKER: 5 Questions with BB&T’s John Allison

‘It’s easier for government to control a few large institutions’

By Brett M. Decker– Brett M. Decker, former Editorial Page Editor for The Washington Times, was an editorial page writer and editor for the Wall Street Journal in Hong Kong, Senior Vice President of the Export-Import Bank, Senior Vice President of Pentagon Federal Credit Union, speechwriter to then-House Majority Whip (later Majority Leader) Tom DeLay and reporter and television producer for the legendary Robert

Friday, May 11, 2012

  • John A. Allison is the former chairman and CEO of BB&T Corporation, where he started working in 1971. Under Mr. Allison’s leadership, BB&T grew from $4.5 billion in assets to $152 billion, becoming America’s 10th largest financial services company and earning the bank’s chairman a spot on Harvard Business Review’s list of top 100 most successful CEOs in the world. Currently a distinguished professor at Wake Forest University’s School of Business, Mr. Allison is also a leader for Job Creators Alliance, a group of entrepreneurs who promote pro-growth policies to support small business. You can find out more at

EXCERPT FROM THIS ARTICLE: Allison: If you want to centrally manage an economy, control the allocation of capital. Dodd-Frank is a dramatic move toward statism (i.e., crony socialism) as government bureaucrats can practically decide which industries, companies and consumers have available credit. Dodd-Frank encourages more consolidation in the banking industry and instead of eliminating “too big to fail,” makes this practice a permanent public policy. It is easier for the centralized government authorities to control a few large institutions than many small companies.

Decker: You told me you couldn’t create your company in today’s environment. That’s quite a startling statement about such a successful business. Why not?

Allison: BB&T grew through local decision-making and personalized service focused on small businesses and the middle market. The current regulatory environment not only imposes extraordinary cost on smaller financial institutions, it makes it difficult to treat each customer as a special individual. Personalized service is now considered by the regulators to be “disparate” treatment. Small-business lending is part science and part art. It is extraordinarily difficult to execute a personalized value proposition with bank examiners micromanaging every decision.

Decker: Banks are used as whipping boys to impute blame for the collapse of the housing market, but government played a central role in the mortgage crisis. Can you explain how Washington intervention manipulated the market with such disastrous results?

Allison: Government policy is the primary cause of the financial crisis. The Federal Reserve “printed” too much money in the early 2000s to avoid a mild recession, which led to a massive misinvestment. The misinvestment was focused in the housing market due to the affordable housing (subprime) lending policies imposed by Congress on the giant Government Sponsored Enterprises (Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae), which would never have existed in a free market. When Freddie and Fannie failed, they owed $5.5 trillion and had $2 trillion in subprime loans. Because Freddie/Fannie had such a dominate share of home-mortgage lending in the United States (75 percent), they drove down the lending standards for the whole industry. (more…)



Thursday, January 24th, 2013



Published on The Weekly Standard (

Small Ball

Why our fiscal debates amount to nothing

Yuval Levin

January 14, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 17

EXCERPT FROM THIS ARTICLE:  It is crucial to see that both of these approaches are basically defensive in nature: The left is trying to avoid a fundamental transformation of the structure of our entitlement programs, since liberals believe the structure of those programs is key to their legitimacy and purpose, and so key to sustaining a just society. The right is trying to avoid a fundamental transformation of the relationship of government and society in American life, since conservatives believe the structure of that relationship is essential to American freedom and prosperity. The left would rather see American life altered (with a significantly larger government, a smaller and less active civil society, and a more consolidated but less dynamic economy) than see our welfare-state institutions reformed. The right would rather see our entitlement system altered (with lumbering universal entitlement programs turned into means-tested and market-based safety-net systems for the elderly and the poor) than see the character of our society transformed. 

For fiscal hawks of all political stripes, the last two years have been awfully frustrating. Budget politics has been front and center almost constantly, yet we have made almost no progress toward reducing our deficits and debt.

Ever since Republicans won control of the House of Representatives in the 2010 elections, they have sought to resist and reverse the flood of spending that had characterized President Obama’s first two years in office and to lay out an ambitious long-term path toward solvency. And because entitlement spending is at the heart of the trouble, they have even defied decades of conventional political wisdom by embracing structural reforms of Medicare and Medicaid. Democrats, meanwhile, have been arguing for higher taxes, at least for the wealthy, to help narrow the budget gap.

The divided Congress, and especially the willfully negligent Senate (which has not passed a budget since 2009), has meant that the resulting fiscal debate has not occurred through the normal legislative process but rather through a series of dramatic showdowns forced by a variety of predetermined deadlines. The failure to enact regular budgets has created the need for temporary continuing resolutions, forcing some spending conversations under the threat of a government shutdown. The near-breaching of the statutory debt ceiling in 2011 required congressional action to enable further borrowing, which Republicans turned into an occasion for budget negotiations. The congressional “supercommittee” created in those negotiations to reduce the deficit kept the fiscal debate alive through 2011 but then failed to reach agreement and raised the specter of automatic cuts in domestic and defense spending. And that specter, combined with the simultaneous expiration of the Bush tax rates, then made for the most dramatic showdown yet—the “fiscal cliff” that threatened to raise everyone’s taxes, and which Congress averted with a New Year’s deal to raise income tax rates only on the wealthy (and payroll tax rates on all workers) and to put off the automatic spending cuts until March, when they would coincide with yet another debt-ceiling debate. (more…)



Tuesday, September 18th, 2012


KUHNER: Bubba’s America

Clinton’s endorsement befits Obama

By Jeffrey T. Kuhner

The Washington Times

Thursday, September 6, 2012

    Former President Bill Clinton has emerged as a hero to many Americans, especially liberals. He has become a Democratic icon, a deeply beloved figure. This is why he was tapped to give the nomination speech for President Obama at the Democratic National Convention. The delegates in Charlotte, N.C., loved it. The reason is simple: His presence — and words — reminded everyone of better days. The 1990s were fat years, an age of supposed peace and prosperity. Mr. Clinton gave Mr. Obama his stamp of approval. Bubba assured America that a second Obama term would deliver economic recovery and a revived middle class — akin to a return to the 1990s.

As usual, he was peddling snake oil. His speech was vintage Clinton: dishonest, self-indulgent, cynical, wonky, pretentious and disconnected from reality. The fact is the 1990s was a disastrous decade, which America is still paying for. It was not just a holiday from history — dominated by an orgy of consumer spending and the coarsening of our culture — but something more pernicious: the squandering of our power and wealth. Mr. Clinton did not preside over America’s boom. Rather, he played a pivotal role in triggering our national decline.

Under his watch, the forces of radical Islam gathered steam — and went largely unopposed. The Taliban tightened their grip over Afghanistan. Pakistan attained the Muslim world’s first nuclear bomb. Iran embarked upon its nuclear program. Somalia became a jihadist haven. Mr. Clinton’s military interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo enabled Islamists to infiltrate the Balkans. Al Qaeda declared war on the United States. The 1993 World Trade Center attacks, the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa, and the 2000 suicide assault on the USS Cole — Islamic terrorists were able to strike American targets with near impunity. Sudan’s government even offered to hand over Osama bin Laden to Washington. Mr. Clinton’s response: no thanks. Instead of confronting the rise of Islamofascism, he ignored it. The Sept. 11 terrorist atrocities were a direct result of Mr. Clinton’s negligent, reckless policies.

Moreover, he actively aided and abetted China’s march to global dominance. His administration transferred vital missile and nuclear technology to Beijing in exchange for illegal campaign contributions. China’s vassal state, North Korea, was allowed through the Agreed Framework agreement to buy the time needed to eventually become a nuclear rogue nation. His administration solidified trade ties with Beijing, encouraging China’s communists to embark upon economic liberalization combined with one-party rule. America’s market was flooded with cheap and shabby Chinese goods. Economic nationalism was sacrificed at the altar of globalization. (more…)



Sunday, August 19th, 2012


The Wall Street Journal

  • August 18, 2012

If Only They Had Listened

Ryan was a voice for Fannie Mae reform while Obama opposed it.

On July 27, 2000, a first-term Congressman from Wisconsin signed his name to the Housing Finance Regulatory Improvement Act. The 30-year-old legislator didn’t have much company. Of 435 Members of the House, only 12 were willing to join Paul Ryan in sponsoring a bill to reduce the taxpayer risks at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Eight years later to the day, a federal bailout of the two mortgage giants was on its way to the desk of President George W. Bush. Almost $190 billion in taxpayer financing later, the toxic twins of the housing crisis maintain their massive role in mortgage finance.

On Friday, the U.S. Treasury said it is relieving the two government-sponsored enterprises of the requirement to pay regular dividends to taxpayers. Instead, the toxic twins will simply pass to the feds any profits they make. Fan and Fred’s investment portfolios will also have to shrink more quickly, which is very good. But the deal suggests that they will continue to slap taxpayer-backed guarantees on mortgage bonds forever, or until there’s a reformer in the White House.

If only there had been a few more reformers on Capitol Hill in 2000. Fan and Fred and their army of “affordable housing” lobbyists saw to it that the plan backed by Mr. Ryan never made the House floor. The bill would have limited the assets the toxic twins could hold, increased their capital, added new federal oversight, and removed their credit lines at Treasury.

“In order to maintain double-digit growth,” noted Mr. Ryan at a 2000 Congressional hearing, “Fannie Mae will have to take on more and more risk” in order to “increase profitability to shareholders.” He added, “This is not a mission of public policy.”

As the government-fueled housing party heated up, Mr. Ryan continued to warn that many of Fan and Fred’s profit-making activities carried little benefit for homeowners. In 2002, he sponsored a bill to remove the exemptions Fan and Fred enjoyed from the disclosure requirements in federal securities laws.

Mr. Ryan continued his sometimes lonely effort to reform the mortgage giants, for which he endured their usual political wrath. In 2008 he told us that Fannie once called every mortgage holder in his district, claiming falsely that Mr. Ryan wanted to raise the cost of their mortgage and asking if Fannie could tell the Congressman to stop on their behalf. He received some 6,000 telegrams. (See “The Fannie Mae Gang,” July 23, 2008.)

Mr. Ryan’s embrace of reform in his first term in Congress compares favorably to the efforts of a freshman Senator from Illinois in 2005. President Obama likes to pretend he was a warning voice in the wilderness because he later issued vague statements of displeasure once the housing market was already cracking.

What Mr. Obama doesn’t say is that he failed to support any of the serious reform efforts to reduce the role of Fannie and Freddie in the mortgage market. The same is true of old Senate hand Joe Biden. Mitt Romney was never a Washington politician, so he can’t be blamed for the legislative failures of the 2000s.

This history bears further study, as Mr. Obama repeatedly attempts to tie the GOP candidates to Washington’s policy mistakes leading up to the financial crisis. In Iowa this week, the President said that Messrs. Romney and Ryan are proposing the same economic policies “that got us into this mess in the first place.”

The truth is that the President who loves to talk about the “mess” he “inherited” did nothing to prevent it when he had the chance. In contrast, his opponent’s new running mate was an early voice for reforms that might have helped America avoid it.





Tuesday, March 13th, 2012
The Wall Street Journal

  • What North Dakota Could Teach California
  • March 11, 2012,

While one plays host to a modern-day Gold Rush, the other shuns evil fossil fuels and wallows in debt.


Williston, N.D.

In his speech last week responding to high gas prices, President Barack Obama insisted that “we can’t just drill our way out of” our energy woes. Actually, we can—and if the president wants proof, he should travel to boomtown USA: Williston, North Dakota.

Williston sits atop the Bakken Shale, which will later this year be producing more oil than any other site in the country, surpassing even Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay, the longtime leader in domestic output. This once-sleepy town is what the Gold Rush might have looked like had it happened in the time of McDonald’s, Wal-Mart and Home Depot. And the oil rush is making Dakotans rich in a hurry, with farmers and other landowners becoming overnight millionaires from lucrative royalties and leases. One retired farmer tells me that, thanks to oil rigs churning on his property, he suddenly has a net worth north of $30 million.


Associated PressAn oil derrick outside Williston, N.D. (more…)



Tuesday, February 7th, 2012
The Wall Street Journal

  • FEBRUARY 7, 2012

A Fairness Quiz for the President

Is it fair that some of Mr. Obama’s largest campaign contributors received federal loan guarantees?


President Obama has frequently justified his policies—and judged their outcomes—in terms of equity, justice and fairness. That raises an obvious question: How does our existing system—and his own policy record—stack up according to those criteria?

Is it fair that the richest 1% of Americans pay nearly 40% of all federal income taxes, and the richest 10% pay two-thirds of the tax?

Is it fair that the richest 10% of Americans shoulder a higher share of their country’s income-tax burden than do the richest 10% in every other industrialized nation, including socialist Sweden?

Is it fair that American corporations pay the highest statutory corporate tax rate of all other industrialized nations but Japan, which cuts its rate on April 1?

Is it fair that President Obama sends his two daughters to elite private schools that are safer, better-run, and produce higher test scores than public schools in Washington, D.C.—but millions of other families across America are denied that free choice and forced to send their kids to rotten schools?

Is it fair that Americans who build a family business, hire workers, reinvest and save their money—paying a lifetime of federal, state and local taxes often climbing into the millions of dollars—must then pay an additional estate tax of 35% (and as much as 55% when the law changes next year) when they die, rather than passing that money onto their loved ones?


Associated Press (more…)

Search All Posts