Saturday, February 02, 2008

Fred, Why Did You Not Say It?

I was disappointed to see that the Fred Thompson presidential campaign never caught fire and that Thompson withdrew from the race. Fred was criticized for never having the drive and zeal necessary to win the nomination. I see a paradox in that I think that anyone who wants the job bad enough to do the things necessary to get it, may not be worthy enough to deserve it.

I admit that Thompson almost lost me a couple times. His verged on the edge of appealing to the worst in people on the immigration issue and he walked a fine line between being adequately pro American and pro defense and being jingoistic. I also was disappointed that at times Thompson seemed to be playing to the crowd that is dismissive of the science of global warming.

Nevertheless, I thought Thompson was the best candidate in the running. Thompson struck me as a person who was intelligent and thoughtful, and I thought he was the most mainstream reliable conservative in the race. I admired Fred Thompson for speaking the truth on social security and for advocating market solutions for health care reform.

What disappointed me in Thompson, was that I felt he never let loose and was himself. He never did do much to distinguish himself from the pack.

Columnist David Broder writes in a recent column of a meeting he had with Fred Thompson last summer in which Thompson discussed his plan to run. Broder writes that Thompson emphasized that the only reason he saw to run was to raise issues that the other candidates were too timid to address. Those issues included the need to expand military manpower and increase the Pentagon budget and taking on the out of control entitlement spending programs.

Broder writes:

Thompson was particularly critical of farm subsidies, and when I asked if he was really going to take that message to Iowa, he said, ‘Yes, but I'd like to keep that off the record until I announce out there.’ I agreed to omit that detail from my column but reported that he was going to enter the race with rhetorical guns blazing, and that was his reason for running.”

Then I sat back and waited -- and waited. In time, Thompson unveiled a serious proposal to attack the long-term deficits in Social Security -- another of the major entitlements. But I never heard the speech on the farm subsidies. When I asked for a follow-up interview with Thompson, his new press secretary found reasons to put me off.

Would a bolder campaign delivered with some of the personal passion I saw in Thompson at that lunch have produced a different result? I don't know, but given what he said about his motives, I suspect that Thompson would feel better today if he had followed his instincts instead of becoming a more conventional conservative.

I would have liked to have heard the speech that Thompson never gave. I sent Thompson a modest campaign contribution, but never developed a lot of enthusiasm for the campaign. If Thompson would have made the farm subsidy speech I could have dug deeper and become more passionate about the Thompson candidacy.

Our farm policy is irrational and expensive. It is the epitome of liberal economic policy making. It makes food cost billions more for Americans, it is bad for our health, it keeps families farming that don’t need to farm, it enriches the corporate factory farmer, it harms the environment, it keeps agriculture from flourishing in undeveloped countries and it undermines American leadership as an advocate for free trade. Yet, the policy continues and hardly anyone but the farmer pays any attention.

Fred, when you had the microphone, why did you not say what you knew needed to be said?

Stumble Upon Toolbar
My Zimbio
Top Stories

Prophet Gore Preaches the Inconvenient Truth at Baptist Gathering.

Last Thursday, former Vice President Al Gore preached the gospel of environmentalism to the New Covenant Baptist Celebration meeting in Atlanta. Over 15, 000 people were attending the event which brought together people from over 30 different diverse denominations that call themselves “Baptist”.

Gore presented his slide show of melting glaziers and stranded polar bears and read Bible passages as he called the faithful to take action to stop global warming. Gore criticized politicians who he said, “instead of acting decisively have tried to talk their way out of the crisis.”

As reported in the Tennessean: “Gore asked his listeners, whether Republican or Democrat, to pressure presidential candidates to stop talking and act on global warming. When asked for specific suggestions, Gore told them to pressure politicians to approve a new global climate treaty and to push for a carbon tax”.

God bless Al Gore. He is not just promoting Live Earth rock concerts. He is not just raising awareness. He is not preaching a muddled message of soft environmentalism. Like a prophet of old, Gore is not mincing words or sugar coating the truth.

So many pussyfooting environmentalist want to tell us to simply change light bulbs and properly inflate our tires. They put out list of “100 easy things you can do to help the environment.” None of those suggestions are going to matter a hill of beans. Global warming will not be stopped by turning down your thermostat, turning corn into ethanol, or tightening CAFE standards. Global warming will not be stopped by making people feel guilty for driving an SUV or letting them feel virtuous for wearing a sweater.

Just as not enough people will turn from their sinful ways so that society can do away with policemen and jails, neither will enough people be persuaded to voluntarily live a carbon neutral life-style to stop global warming. Any thing short of the call to action put out by Mr. Gore is just feel-good environmentalism. As Al said in his sermon, “As long as pollution is free, the earth will be treated like a sewer.”

It is disappointing that so many people who have long warned of the dangers of global warming will not endorse the solutions to combat it. I am not sure who is doing more to keep us from solving the global warming crisis, the global warming deniers or the reality deniers. I am not sure who is the best friend of global warming, those who don’t believe in science or those who don’t believe in economics.

Those bearded, flannel-shirt-wearing, vegetarian, leftist, old hippie environmentalist who think we only need to love mother nature and conserve are doing more to advance global warming than all of the Rush Limbaughs and oil company lobbyist put together.

I hope Al Gore is not a voice crying in the wilderness.

Stumble Upon Toolbar
My Zimbio
Top Stories

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

FBI Investigates 14 Firms in Subprime Crackdown

Tue Jan 29, 2008 5:39pm EST
By Randall Mikkelsen

- The FBI has opened criminal investigations into 14 corporations as part of a crackdown on improper subprime lending, agency officials said on Tuesday.
FBI officials told reporters the probes involved potential violations, including accounting fraud and insider trading.

They did not identify the companies. But the probes reached across the industry to include developers, subprime lenders, companies that securitized loans and investment banks that held them, said Neil Power, head of the FBI's economic crimes unit.
"Currently there are ... 14 investigations, inquiries open right now," he said.
Cases involving individual loans have also risen sharply in a crackdown on subprime lending irregularities, officials said.

"We anticipate in the next year that another wave of adjustable rate mortgages will reset and with that we anticipate that the mortgage corporate fraud potential cases to increase," said Sharon Ormsby, head of the FBI's financial crimes section.

The FBI is investigating the corporate cases in parallel with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which has opened about three dozen civil investigations into the subprime market collapse. Some of the probes overlap, an official said.

Targets of the SEC probe include Swiss bank UBS AG and U.S investment banks Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, Bear Stearns, as well as bond insurer MBIA.
The SEC, which has formed an internal subprime mortgage task force, is looking at how financial firms priced mortgage-based securities and whether they should have told investors earlier about the declining value of those securities.

The U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, New York and the FBI earlier launched a criminal investigation into two mortgage-related hedge funds at Bear Stearns that collapsed during the summer.
There are also state investigations.

The corporate investigations are part of an FBI crackdown on improper subprime lending, which also includes a focus on fraud in loan origination.

The agency has about 1,200 active cases, up 40 percent from 2006, with 321 criminal complaints or indictments, officials said.
"Subprime loans are decreasing but ... suspicions of mortgage fraud are increasing," Ormsby said.

Some of the loan origination cases are spurred by individuals lying to qualify for mortgages, but about 80 percent of the cases involved fraud for profit, Power said.
Particular problem areas included California, Texas, Arizona, Florida, and the Midwest, officials said.

My Comment: As a housing counselor, I see people all of the time who are losing their home and who got loans they should never have gotten.

Many times there is not a lot of reason to feel much sorrow for the borrower. Often the sub-prime Adjustable Rate Mortgage with a teaser introductory rate allowed the borrower to buy more house than they could afford and they got into the house with no money down. If they lose the house, they are not really losing anything, since they have no equity in the home. They wanted a $200,000 house when they could only afford a $120,000 house. The borrower just knew they wanted that house and did not pay attention to the details of the financing. The borrower was greedy and irresponsible. Don't waste your compassion on these people. They got to live beyond their means for two year, and now they have to face reality. In these cases, they need to lose the home, learn a hard lesson and just start over and do it right next time.

On the other hand, I also see people who could have qualified for a good loan, but were sold a very bad sub-prime product. I also see cases of falsified loan applications. Usually in the case of the falsified loan application, the falsification was started by the loan officer. The loan officer types up the app and gets the borrower to sign it. Either the borrower never notices the incorrect information or the loan officer explains away the discrepancy and tells the borrower not to worry about it, that that is just how things are done. I also see inflated appraisals. I have seen "flipping" of loans which is when loan is refinanced over and over each time eating up the equity in the house until the person can't refinance anymore and loses the home.

Buying a home, for most people is the biggest financial decision they will ever make and is their primary method of creating wealth. They should use caution and make sure they understand what they are doing. However, many borrowers are not very sophisticated or educated, and financing a home can be complicated. Many borrowers assume their loan officer will get them financing that is in their best interest. There are many honorable, honest loan officers who do just that and over the years I have worked with many people for whom I have the up most respect. There are, however, a lot of unscrupulous crooks waiting to prey on the unsophisticated borrower. They target the elderly, minorities, and anyone who they think they can get by with victimizing. They lie, mislead, and withhold vital information. I am all for a person making an honest buck, but to rip people off by putting them in a bad mortgage product when the borrower could have qualified for a good product is unconscionable.

I do not believe this culture of greed and corruption in the mortgage business started at the level of the loan officer. I must believe that it was condoned higher up the chain of command. I will be delighted to see some CEO's go to jail. I hope it happens.

Stumble Upon Toolbar
My Zimbio
Top Stories