Vail Valley Voices: We can do better
Vail, CO, Colorado
Before I read Mark Hillman’s op-ed piece, “OK, it’s Dems’ turn,” which I found to be an attack on Democrats and a whitewash of George W. Bush and his policies, I had no intention of writing a commentary attacking the president.
While I did not agree with many of President Bush’s policies, I looked forward to and hoped for a combined Democratic and Republican effort to solve this nation’s many problems, both here and around a world, which our president has largely alienated.
My hopes were based on both the rhetoric of Barack Obama and the tone set by John McCain after he lost the election and since. I chose to ignore the venomous comments of Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin.
However, after reading Mr. Hillman’s commentary, I felt that some of his statements should not go unchallenged and other points of view should be expressed and read.
Then came Jim Akins’s attack on me (and “you liberals” who “can’t keep your facts straight”) for pointing out things that Mr. Hillman left out. Mr. Akin chose to do this by rebutting arguments that I did not advance and largely ignoring those that I in fact made. In doing so, he was selective with his facts, ignoring some and misrepresenting others:
1. Mr. Akin attacks all of those who do not agree with his brand of politics as “liberals,” making the term sound like a pejorative. While I agree with many of the liberal ideas of some of my friends, I do not consider myself a liberal. I consider myself a moderate. And I’m proud of it. And I agree with some of the ideas of my Republican friends, although I cannot today be a Republican because I cannot support many of their stands on social issues. Further, I agree with Mark Hillman when he says we should not oppose for opposition’s sake.
2. While I do not agree with many of President Bush’s economic policies, I did not say and do not believe that he and he alone is or even principally is responsible for the economic meltdown. Nor did I mention anything about President Clinton downsizing government or President Bush doubling the national budget. And while it is true that President Clinton did not have to fight two wars ” neither did President Bush have to invade Iraq. He could have fought one war and contained Iraq, preserving it as a buffer to Iran.
3. Mr. Akin mentioned the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, signed by President Carter, and the efforts of U.S. Rep. Barney Frank and Sen. Chris Dodd with respect to Fannie May and Freddie Mac.
To be fair, those efforts did, in fact, ease the qualifications of low-income and minority borrowers and mandated banks to consider them for loans. But they did not mandate that loans be made which the banks knew could not be repaid once the interest rates reset if the housing market did not continue to rise.
Those efforts did not mandate the unholy alliance among the real estate, mortgage lending and security industries that resulted.
Yes, qualifications for loans eased, but then like the story of the fellow who when offered a finger takes the whole hand, the investment banks figured out a way to collateralize, securitize and repackage these loans and sell and resell them with fees on each transaction.
With a nod and a wink from the rating agencies, the fees soon became more important than a careful analysis of whether the original loans could ever be repaid or what loans were in which security.
While President Bush did not himself advocate this, those whom he appointed had little interest in regulating business to prevent it. The investment banks and mortgage lenders did not stop with the so-called subprime mortgages. In their greed, they went further with the option ARMS and the Alt-A’s that are all due to reset to the further detriment of our economy.
4. I note that Mr. Akin, in his attack, asserts that: “If Bush’s current budget and fiscal and tax policies were followed as planned, the Treasury would have a surplus once again by 2012. Of course this will not happen now with all the bailouts the Democratic Congress is authorizing.”
I ask Mr. Akin:
a. Are not these bailouts requested by President Bush?
b. Have you forgotten that the cost of the Iraq war is not included by President Bush in the budget?
5. As to whether government should help out those in trouble, it always comes down to whose ox is being gored. When it’s the other fellow’s, then the government should stay out of it or help should not be given. But when it’s your own interests that are threatened, then the government should bail you out.
Mr. Akin, I’m sure you align yourself with Rush Limbaugh, as you said you found my commentary offensive. However, President Bush has not, in my opinion, served us well, and the stakes are very high, magnifying the effects of his many mistakes, none of which he is willing to admit or acknowledge.
We can and must do better. While Democrats and Republicans have both made mistakes in the past, it is best that we acknowledge them, try to work together with the best brains available, and not try to whitewash the past. Barack Obama seems to be doing this. I hope he succeeds.
Like Mark Hillman suggested, I will keep him, his family, our country and our leaders in my prayers.
Keith Spero, of Edwards, is a retired trial lawyer.