Bloomberg: don’t blame the banks

In some circles, there’s a tendency to consider New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) a liberal. Ralph Nader has even been advocating a Bloomberg presidential campaign. (Seriously.)

But it’s worth appreciating the limits of the NYC mayor’s ideology. Bloomberg is great on marriage equality, and he showed some real leadership during the ridiculous Park51 uproar, but he is not a progressive champion lurking behind an “independent” banner.

Just in recent weeks, Bloomberg has spoken out against tax increases on the wealthy and criticized Occupy Wall Street, and this morning, went so far as to absolve the financial industry of responsibility for the mortgage crisis.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said this morning that if there is anyone to blame for the mortgage crisis that led the collapse of the financial industry, it’s not the “big banks,” but Congress. […]

“I hear your complaints,” Bloomberg said [about OWS]. “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….

“[T]hey 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.”

The mayor added that it’s “cathartic” to point fingers now, but he wants to focus on solutions to the problem.

On that last part, I’m sympathetic, but if we don’t know what caused a problem, we can’t expect to fix it.

And in this case, Bloomberg is just wrong.

These comments indicate Bloomberg is either ignorant of the facts of the mortgage meltdown or so eager to rid his city of Occupiers that he’ll discard the truth. The Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 did not cause the meltdown of 2007, in no small part because that law didn’t apply to the private lenders who dominated the subprime market. The fraudulent practices of those lenders and the financial derivatives the private investment houses used to turn the subprime market into an elaborate game of hot potato were left unregulated by the federal government — but that’s not even the basis for Bloomberg’s criticism of Washington. He claims Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac ‘made a bunch of loans’ even though they (1) do not make loans, and (2) were backing out of insuring subprime loans as private, unregulated firms rushed into the derivatives casino.

If Bloomberg doesn’t know any of this, he hasn’t been paying attention to years of reporting on the subject. If he does, he is carrying water for the big banks and fraudsters who are doing everything they can to help Republicans repeal last year’s financial reforms and restore the casino culture that let many of them profit from the crisis they created.

When it comes to the kind of rhetoric we heard from Bloomberg this morning, I expect it from Republicans, but the NYC mayor is supposed to know better. It’s been several years since the crisis began, and Bloomberg’s charges have been debunked enough times for him to know the truth.

As Pat Garofalo recently explained, “While the mortgage giants were no angels, Federal Reserve data shows that it was private mortgage brokers who drove the subprime housing bubble: More than 84 percent of the subprime mortgages in 2006 were issued by private lending institutions…. Private firms made nearly 83 percent of the subprime loans to low- and moderate-income borrowers that year…. Wall Street firms divvied up the junk loans from subprime dealers and sold them all around the world, setting the state for the 2008 financial crisis. But Republicans … continue to cling to a story that the data doesn’t tell, in order to blame the government for the private sector’s sins.”

As hizzoner demonstrated this morning, it’s not just Republicans.