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Dead Cat Bounce?

by Christopher Chantrill
September 22, 2008 at 11:23 pm

AFTER TWO days soaring, stocks turned lower again today, with the Dow down 372.75 or 3.25 percent at the close. They say that the third day after a bounce is the key to a sustained rally, so it looks like there is more to come on the bad news front.

When things turn south, we read in the books, the key is to find a scapegoat and sacrifice it. Since all this bad stuff happened on Bush’s watch it goes without saying that he is to blame.

But since Bush will soon be out of office, it seems hardly satisfying to give him the entire blame for the mortgage meltdown and the Fannie/Freddie meltdown and the Wall Street investment bank meltdom and doubtless more meltdowns to come.

I know, let’s blame the Democrats! Kevin Hassett from the American Enterprise Institute has the goods on them.

Back in 2005 responsible Republicans introduced S.190 in the United States Senate. It would have curbed Fannie and Freddie and maybe averted the meltdown. But Democrats were united in opposition.

Of course it had nothing to do with the money that Democrats were getting from Fannie/Freddie. Oh no. Even though Hassett writes that Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) was one of the prime beneficiaries of Fannie/Freddie money.

Throughout his political career, Obama has gotten more than $125,000 in campaign contributions from employees and political action committees of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, second only to Dodd, the Senate Banking Committee chairman, who received more than $165,000.

That’s right. Chairman Dodd. He was a mere ranking Democrat in 2005, but the Senate changed hands in 2006. Don’t expect much from Chairman Dodd on the Fannie/Freddie reform front, not unless Secretary Paulson puts a gun to his head. Especially since Dodd was a “Friend of Angelo” at Countrywide Financial.

But the larger issue is to think back over the years of Fannie/Freddie excess. Was it really doing their low-income homeowner constituents a favor for Democrats to sluice money at housing? Wouldn’t they be better off if there had been no subsidies and no big runup in home prices? Wouldn’t they be better off if house prices weren’t in free fall right now?

The tragedy is that Democrats still don’t seem to have learned their lesson. At least not Barney Frank, the counterpart to Dodd in the House, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Fan and Fred’s patrons on Capitol Hill didn’t care about the risks inherent in their combined trillion-dollar-plus mortgage portfolios, so long as they helped meet political goals on housing. Even after taxpayers have had to pick up a bailout tab that may grow as large as $200 billion, House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank still won’t back a reduction in their mortgage portfolios.

It’s the trouble with the whole welfare state model. You think you are helping the poor by sluicing out subsidies. But you only end up wrecking their families, failing to educate their children, and enticing them into buying more house than they can afford.

But at least you get their votes.

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Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.  His Road to the Middle Class is forthcoming.


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Responsible Self

[The Axial Age] highlights the conception of a responsible self... [that] promise[s] man for the first time that he can understand the fundamental structure of reality and through salvation participate actively in it.
Robert N Bellah, "Religious Evolution", American Sociological Review, Vol. 29, No. 3.


Taking Responsibility

[To make] of each individual member of the army a soldier who, in character, capability, and knowledge, is self-reliant, self-confident, dedicated, and joyful in taking responsibility [verantwortungsfreudig] as a man and a soldier. — Gen. Hans von Seeckt
MacGregor Knox, Williamson Murray, ed., The dynamics of military revolution, 1300-2050


Civil Society

“Civil Society”—a complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churches—builds, in turn, on the family, the primary instrument by which people are socialized into their culture and given the skills that allow them to live in broader society and through which the values and knowledge of that society are transmitted across the generations.
Francis Fukuyama, Trust


What Liberals Think About Conservatives

[W]hen I asked a liberal longtime editor I know with a mainstream [publishing] house for a candid, shorthand version of the assumptions she and her colleagues make about conservatives, she didn't hesitate. “Racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-choice fascists,” she offered, smiling but meaning it.
Harry Stein, I Can't Believe I'm Sitting Next to a Republican


Liberal Coercion

[T]he Liberal, and still more the subspecies Radical... more than any other in these latter days seems under the impression that so long as he has a good end in view he is warranted in exercising over men all the coercion he is able[.]
Herbert Spencer, The Man Versus the State


Moral Imperatives of Modern Culture

These emerge out of long-standing moral notions of freedom, benevolence, and the affirmation of ordinary life... I have been sketching a schematic map... [of] the moral sources [of these notions]... the original theistic grounding for these standards... a naturalism of disengaged reason, which in our day takes scientistic forms, and a third family of views which finds its sources in Romantic expressivism, or in one of the modernist successor visions.
Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self


US Life in 1842

Families helped each other putting up homes and barns. Together, they built churches, schools, and common civic buildings. They collaborated to build roads and bridges. They took pride in being free persons, independent, and self-reliant; but the texture of their lives was cooperative and fraternal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism


Society and State

For [the left] there is only the state and the individual, nothing in between. No family to rely on, no friend to depend on, no community to call on. No neighbourhood to grow in, no faith to share in, no charities to work in. No-one but the Minister, nowhere but Whitehall, no such thing as society - just them, and their laws, and their rules, and their arrogance.
David Cameron, Conference Speech 2008


Faith and Politics

As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable... [1.] protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death; [2.] recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family... [3.] the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.
Pope Benedict XVI, Speech to European Peoples Party, 2006


Never Trust Experts

No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you should never trust experts. If you believe doctors, nothing is wholesome: if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent: if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe. They all require their strong wine diluted by a very large admixture of insipid common sense.
Lord Salisbury, “Letter to Lord Lytton”


Conservatism's Holy Grail

What distinguishes true Conservatism from the rest, and from the Blair project, is the belief in more personal freedom and more market freedom, along with less state intervention... The true Third Way is the Holy Grail of Tory politics today - compassion and community without compulsion.
Minette Marrin, The Daily Telegraph


Class War

In England there were always two sharply opposed middle classes, the academic middle class and the commercial middle class. In the nineteenth century, the academic middle class won the battle for power and status... Then came the triumph of Margaret Thatcher... The academics lost their power and prestige and... have been gloomy ever since.
Freeman Dyson, “The Scientist as Rebel”


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©2007 Christopher Chantrill