The following are a few excerpts from the Boston Globe Opinion page regarding Barney Frank and his role with Fannie & Freddie:
Frank, who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, has always been ardent in his defense of Fannie and Freddie. In 2003, he insisted that the two mortgage giants were not “facing any kind of a crisis.’’ In July 2008, just weeks before they collapsed and were taken over by the federal government, he publicly maintained that “Fannie and Freddie are fundamentally sound — they are not in danger of going under.’’ Frank recently told the Boston Globe’s Donovan Slack that “he missed the warning signs [in 2003] because he was wearing ideological blinders,’’ while in 2008 “he was deliberately trying to reassure the public.’’
Is it fair to blame Frank for the ill-advised home loans to unqualified borrowers that were at the heart of the economic crisis? Not according to Frank. He points instead to Wall Street greed and to the fecklessness of congressional Republicans when they were in the majority. He also points to George W. Bush’s passion for expanding homeownership — a passion that included pressing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to “meet ambitious new goals for low-income lending,’’ as The New York Times put it in a 2008 story headlined “White House Philosophy Stoked Mortgage Bonfire.’’ That all of them played a role in the collapse, no reasonable person can doubt. So to the extent that Bielat accuses Frank of primary responsibility for the financial derailment, he goes too far.
But Frank also goes too far in vehemently denying any connection to Fannie and Freddie’s failure, or to the risky mortgage lending that caused so much damage. He portrays himself now as a lifelong advocate for affordable rental housing only. To hear him tell it, it was never a part of his agenda to make it easier for low-income homebuyers to get mortgages. Indeed, he says, he always fought the idea.
“Low-income home ownership has been a mistake, and I have been a consistent critic of it,’’ Frank claimed during a debate with Bielat on WRKO.