We Have Met the Enemy and He Is...? [Victor Davis Hanson]
In the sudden rush to blame the crooks in DC and on Wall Street, we should first take a long look in the mirror. For two decades, we — as in we Americans — expected to buy homes, flip them, and walk away with thousands — without much thought about what might happen to the johnny-come-lately at the bottom of the pyramid when the game was finally up and housing prices cooled or crashed. Walking away from a mortgage on a house with negative equity was "smart;" putting someone in one who had no ability to come up with a down payment, monthly payments, taxes, and maintenance was "fair"; borrowing unduly against equity for cash expenditures was "understandable."
We deified the masters of hedge funds, derivatives, and subprime mortgages, forgetting that passé oil production, mining, farming, manufacturing, engineering and construction were the real sources of our material wealth.
We assumed mega-returns on our portfolios, without a thought what Wall Street did to get them, or the effect on others who needed to borrow at such high interest to run their businessess.
Ours became a culture that wanted larger cars but less drilling to fuel them, more stuff and more credit from — and more anger at — the Chinese; less taxes but even more government hand-outs; ever more electricity, but fewer icky coal and nuclear plants — and always more health-care, education-care, prescription drug-care, housing-care, and always less care how to pay for it.
So by all means let us prosecute the lawbreakers, finger-point at the enablers, lecture the stupid, but at least spare us the sanctimonious "they" did this to poor "us." If there were not a Senate Banking Chairman like Chris Dodd without shame cozing up to the creeps at Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, or a Richard Fuld playing casino roulette with someone else's money, we would have had to invent them.
We should argue over the course of Paulson's unpleasant chemotherapy to deal with these symptoms of a metastasizing disease, but let us at least consider what were the catalysts for that deeper cancer.
Monday, September 22, 2008
Look In The Mirror