The traditional media apparently have very short memories. At least, that's the only reason I can think of, short of outright moral corruption, that would explain why George Bush's rhetoric and policy centered on an 'Ownership Society' hasn't received any scrutiny whatsoever.
For example, in his 2004 nomination acceptance speech, Bush said:
Another priority for a new term is to build an ownership society, because ownership brings security and dignity and independence.
Thanks to our policies, home ownership in America is at an all- time high.
Tonight we set a new goal: 7 million more affordable homes in the next 10 years, so more American families will be able to open the door and say, "Welcome to my home."
That wasn't just verbiage, it was policy. Indeed, after the catastrophic job losses of his first term, expanding home ownership was the one bright spot Team Rove could point to in an otherwise dismal picture. Expanding home ownership by any means necessary was Bush administration policy until roughly Spring of 2008.
A White House Fact Sheet titled America's Ownership Society: Expanding Opportunities amplifies the point that risky mortgages were the implicit foundation of the administration's approach. It starts with a Bush quote:
"...if you own something, you have a vital stake in the future of our country. The more ownership there is in America, the more vitality there is in America, and the more people have a vital stake in the future of this country."
-President George W. Bush, June 17, 2004
The nauseating bromides come accompanied by actual policy meat.
Expanding Homeownership. The President believes that homeownership is the cornerstone of America's vibrant communities and benefits individual families by building stability and long-term financial security. In June 2002, President Bush issued America's Homeownership Challenge to the real estate and mortgage finance industries to encourage them to join the effort to close the gap that exists between the homeownership rates of minorities and non-minorities. The President also announced the goal of increasing the number of minority homeowners by at least 5.5 million families before the end of the decade. Under his leadership, the overall U.S. homeownership rate in the second quarter of 2004 was at an all time high of 69.2 percent. Minority homeownership set a new record of 51 percent in the second quarter, up 0.2 percentage point from the first quarter and up 2.1 percentage points from a year ago. President Bush's initiative to dismantle the barriers to homeownership includes:
- American Dream Downpayment Initiative, which provides down payment assistance to approximately 40,000 low-income families;
- Affordable Housing. The President has proposed the Single-Family Affordable Housing Tax Credit, which would increase the supply of affordable homes
- Helping Families Help Themselves. The President has proposed increasing support for the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunities Program; and
- Simplifying Homebuying and Increasing Education. The President and HUD want to empower homebuyers by simplifying the home buying process so consumers can better understand and benefit from cost savings. The President also wants to expand financial education efforts so that families can understand what they need to do to become homeowners.
The National Homeownership Challenge referenced above might as well be a how-to manual for the mortgage crisis we're seeing right now, and also neatly derails the emerging talking point that the crisis stems from irresponsible minority buyers who just didn't know what they were doing (Emphasis in the original).
- Establish a national goal of at least 5.5 million new minority homeowners before the end of the decade.
- Challenge the private sector real estate and mortgage finance industries to dramatically increase their efforts to reduce the barriers to homeownership faced by minority families and to work with the nonprofit sector in a concerted effort to achieve this goal through national and local partnerships.
- Convene a White House Conference on Increasing Minority Homeownership, to highlight the homeownership barriers faced by minorities and develop proposed solutions.
There was in fact such a White House conference on October 15th, 2002.
A 2004 press release from the City of Wichita, celebrating National Homeownership Week - subsequently expanded in 2006 to National Homeownership Month, celebrated most recently in June 2008 - explicitly lauds Bush administration policy and shows how White House policy trickled down to the most local levels of government.
Some statistics from President George W. Bush’s agenda to expand homeownership opportunities include:* U.S. homeownership rate was at a record high of 68.6% in the fourth quarter of 2003, the highest ever.
+ Census estimates an increase of 1.53 million minority homeowners, which means for the first time a majority of the minority households own a home with 50.6%.* Increased housing prices and new home construction have added nearly $4 trillion to homeowner wealth since the start of 2001.
In the 2004 campaign, Bush used the expanding rate of homeownership to club John Kerry in swing states.
ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico (CNN) -- President Bush traveled Friday to New Mexico, the state that was decided by the closest margin in 2000, where he hailed a "growing" U.S. economy and record home ownership.
The president's speech laid out his positive view of the economy just minutes before Democratic presidential contender Sen. John Kerry, in Michigan, unveiled part of his economic plan, saying America "cannot afford" four more years of job losses under Bush.
"Thanks to being the most productive workforce in America, and I might say, thanks to good policies, this economy is strong and it's getting stronger," Bush told supporters.
Noting that 68 percent of Americans own their own homes, Bush said, "Home sales were the highest ever recently. That's exciting news for the country."
Now, anything that happened in 2004, in terms of the traditional media's gnat-like attention span, might as well have happened before the Norman Conquest. But that doesn't change the fact that it happened, that the Bush administration encouraged the rapid expansion of homeownership for political and ideological reasons, and that they did so with the same sure command of policy and deep understanding of policy consequences that brought us victory in Iraq.
So it's up to us to spread the word. The mortgage crisis is not the fault of a few bad apples. It's the outcome of policy decisions made by the White House. People need to remember that, because the republicans and their toadies in the media sure as hell ain't gonna tell them.