OUT OF THE WOODWORK
..check it out.
While we're at it, here's Peter Dale Scott on Eliot Spitzer:
Let us now consider the financial crisis and the panic bailout. No one should think that the crisis was unforeseen. Back in February Eliot Spitzer, in one of his last acts as governor of
Several years ago, state attorneys general and others involved in consumer protection began to notice a marked increase in a range of predatory lending practices by mortgage lenders. …
Even though predatory lending was becoming a national problem, the Bush administration looked the other way and did nothing to protect American homeowners. In fact, the government chose instead to align itself with the banks that were victimizing consumers. . . . Several state legislatures, including
Let me explain: The administration accomplished this feat through an obscure federal [Treasury] agency called the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). The OCC has been in existence since the Civil War. Its mission is to ensure the fiscal soundness of national banks. For 140 years, the OCC examined the books of national banks to make sure they were balanced, an important but uncontroversial function. But a few years ago, for the first time in its history, the OCC was used as a tool against consumers.
In 2003, during the height of the predatory lending crisis, the OCC invoked a clause from the 1863 National Bank Act to issue formal opinions preempting all state predatory lending laws, thereby rendering them inoperative. The OCC also promulgated new rules that prevented states from enforcing any of their own consumer protection laws against national banks. The federal government's actions were so egregious and so unprecedented that all 50 state attorneys general, and all 50 state banking superintendents, actively fought the new rules.
But the unanimous opposition of the 50 states did not deter, or even slow, the Bush administration in its goal of protecting the banks. In fact, when my office opened an investigation of possible discrimination in mortgage lending by a number of banks, the OCC filed a federal lawsuit to stop the investigation.21
Eliot Spitzer submitted his Op Ed to the Washington Post on February 13. If it had an impact, it was not the one Spitzer had hoped for. On March 10 the New York Times broke the story of Spitzer’s encounter with a prostitute. According to a later Times story, “on Feb. 13 [the day Spitzer’s Op Ed went up on the Washington Post website] federal agents staked out his hotel in
It is remarkable that the Mainstream Media found Spitzer’s private life to be big news, but not his charges that Paulson’s Treasury was prolonging the financial crisis, or the relation of these charges to Spitzer’s exposure. As a weblog commented,
The US news media failed to draw the obvious connection between the bizarre federal law enforcement investigation and leak campaign about the private life of New York Governor Spitzer and Spitzer's all out attack on the Bush administration for its collusion with predatory lenders.
While the international credit system grinds to a halt because of a superabundance of bad mortgage loans made in the
Yet when salacious details were leaked about alleged details of Spitzer's private life, they took that information and made it the front page news for days.23
After Spitzer’s Op Ed was published, according to Greg Palast, the Federal Reserve, “for the first time in its history, loaned a selected coterie of banks one-fifth of a trillion dollars to guarantee these banks’ mortgage-backed junk bonds. The deluge of public loot was an eye-popping windfall to the very banking predators who have brought two million families to the brink of foreclosure.”24
What are we to make of Spitzer’s charge that the Bush administration interfered to preempt state laws against predatory lending, and of the fact that the mainstream media did not report that? A petty motive for the OCC’s behavior in 2003 might have been to allow the housing bubble to continue through 2003 and 2004, thus facilitating Bush’s re-election. But the persistence of Treasury obstruction thereafter, despite the unanimous opposition of all fifty states, and the continuing silence of the media about this disagreement, suggest that some broader policy intention may have been at stake.