Mike Bloomberg is a pretty rich man. He made his money delivering financial information to people in power. Needless to say, he doesn’t have that personal touch when it comes to talking about the concerns of the poor. In fact, he’s decided to get the story of the mortgage meltdown completely wrong to implicate Congress rather than his Wall Street buddies.
Speaking at a business breakfast in midtown featuring Bloomberg and two former New York City mayors, Bloomberg was asked what he thought of the Occupy Wall Street protesters.
“I hear your complaints,” Bloomberg said. “Some of them are totally unfounded. It was not the banks that created the mortgage crisis. It was, plain and simple, Congress who forced everybody to go and give mortgages to people who were on the cusp. Now, I’m not saying I’m sure that was terrible policy, because a lot of those people who got homes still have them and they wouldn’t gave gotten them without that.
“But they were the ones who pushed Fannie and Freddie to make a bunch of loans that were imprudent, if you will. They were the ones that pushed the banks to loan to everybody. And now we want to go vilify the banks because it’s one target, it’s easy to blame them and congress certainly isn’t going to blame themselves. At the same time, Congress is trying to pressure banks to loosen their lending standards to make more loans. This is exactly the same speech they criticized them for.”
This is the typical alibi, along the lines of “The Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 caused the financial crisis by forcing irresponsible lending after laying dormant for 25 years,” that Republicans like to use as a convenient front for Wall Street. Nobody should claim that Fannie and Freddie were squeaky-clean enterprises. But it’s clear they had absolutely nothing to do with the housing bubble, getting into subprime only years after the private banks started gorging themselves. It’s really just crazy talk, and I think the best refutation comes from Jeff Madrick.
But I appreciate Bloomberg for saying it out loud, so now we can have more debate about this at a time where his popularity is almost nil and the zeitgeist has changed, so these bon mots from elites are no longer seen as credible. Bloomberg wants to offload responsibility to Congress for the crisis so that nobody gets any funny ideas about holding banks accountable. But that ship has sailed. Banks are historically unpopular, and for good reason, since they contributed to an epic meltdown by committing crimes against the public, and instead of going to jail, they got bailed out and nursed back to prosperity. This, of course, doesn’t mean we’ll actually get accountability from them, but it does mean that emperors like Bloomberg have no clothes.