From my new VDARE.com column:
The mortgage fiasco devastatingI’ll demonstrate using the meteoric rise and fall of Washington Mutual, Inc. (WaMu). Under CEO Kerry Killinger’s direction, WaMu went from being an obscure
’s big banks has many causes, but perhaps the least understood is the complex impact of the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). There has been some hoopla over the CRA in recent months, but nobody seems to have noticed the subtle way the CRA actually exacerbated the disaster. America outfit to the sixth biggest bank in Seattle . ... America
“SEATTLE, Dec 21, 2001 … In connection with its merger with Dime [Bank], Washington Mutual recently established a ten-year, $375 billion community commitment which targets funding to low- and moderate-income borrowers, and minority borrowers … One of the largest community commitments of its kind, the ten-year pledge will be implemented with the assistance and support of a variety of non-profit community partners.”
On WaMu’s still-existent website, the bank explains that $375 billion pledge:
“These funds will provide loans and other financial support to communities consisting predominantly of people of color, to residents of low- to moderate-income (LMI) census tracts, and to people whose income is below 80 percent of median income. We will strive to create products and programs that increase our market share in low income and diverse communities, with a long-term goal of making our market share in these communities more closely mirror our market share overall. Using our Year 2000 production as a baseline, we have set our goal to double the number of loans made to borrowers of color by the end of the first year of this commitment. Thereafter, we will increase the number of loans made in these communities as quickly as possible.”
Not surprisingly, WaMu won the 2003 CRA Community Impact Award.
We now know that subprime foreclosures are centered among exactly the kind of people targeted in WaMu’s CRA agreement with racial activists. During the Housing Bubble of 2004-2007, minorities accounted for twice as many subprime dollars borrowed per capita than did whites. And the new report by the Boston Fed shows that, at least in
, minorities defaulted on subprime loans at twice the white rate. All this suggests that minorities accounted for approaching two-thirds of subprime mortgage dollars lost. Massachusetts
For the GOP, the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) was a more convenient example of government interference in the mortgage markets than, say, George W. Bush's 2002-2004 holy war on down payments in his effort to boost minority home ownership. That’s because the CRA was passed by a Democratic Congress and signed by a Democratic President.
Of course, the GOP’s claims about the CRA's centrality in the mortgage meltdown were obviously partisan. And more skepticism about the importance of the CRA seemed plausible, along these lines:
"How could the government hold a gun to the financial institutions' heads and force them to make hundreds of billions in stupid loans? Sure, giving out $375 million in stupid loans to get the government off your back, that would make sense. $3.75 billion, maybe. $37.5 billion, conceivably. But $375 billion, no way. Nobody would promise to give away $375 billion to dubious borrowers unless they thought it was a great idea. They’d leave the industry before they’d promise to hand out $375 billion to people whom they doubted would pay it back.”
In general, the government and its associated racket-runners can extort mid-level amounts of affirmative action booty. But when the demands get too great, businesses exit in one way or another. (Often with bad effects on general welfare, of course).
Obviously, it's a massive exaggeration to say the government and the ACORN clones forced WaMu to lend to likely deadbeats. Nobody promises to loan out $375 billion to low and moderate income and minority borrowers unless they actually want to lend out to low and moderate income and minority borrowers something approaching $375 billion.
Moreover, Washington Mutual sure didn’t act reluctant. They were positively exuberant about pouring money into the hands of minorities with weak histories of paying off debts. The relatively small number of big financial institutions that did a major fraction of subprime lending really seem to have drunk the same Kool-Aid as ACORN, Congress, Clinton, and Bush. They actually thought they were going to get rich off no-money-down, $400,000 loans to high school dropouts.
And they did, for a few years. CEO Killinger “earned” $88 million from 2001-2007.
WaMu's strategy was lending to deadbeats—the more minority the better. For years, WaMu ran a series of TV commercials where one cool black guy in a blue WaMu shirt, an actor who looked like a cross between Barack Obama and Don Cheadle, would humiliate dozens of old white bankers in suits.
Most advertisers would have put one token minority banker in the crowd of pompous empty suits. But WaMu didn't bother. They wanted to get their message across.
So it would seem that WaMu didn't need the CRA to blows billions.And yet ... there's a more subtle point that I, and seemingly everybody else, missed in dismissing the CRA: the impact of the CRA's veto over bank acquisitions: the selection effect on who gets to get big.
For a full explanation of one nearly universally overlooked point about the the causes of the mortgage meltdown, continue reading here.