I fully agree with Iain Murray:
While conservatives are angry about a number of things at the moment, they should be at least as angry that the Congressional Democrats who helped stoke the mortgage crisis are getting away with blaming everyone else for it. Today, Senator Chris Dodd, the prime recipient of GSE lobbying funds and proud holder of a sweetheart mortgage from Countrywide, is holding hearings where the witnesses will blame everyone but Dodd, Barney Frank and their cronies. Republicans asked to invite witnesses but were barred from doing so.
The notion that this mess is the fault of Republicans, and “deregulation” and the free market, is one of the biggest frauds ever perpetrated on the American people. And as a result, we could be heading toward both electoral and economic disaster.
[Update early afternoon]
Peter Schiff says don’t blame capitalism:
Just as prices in a free market are set by supply and demand, financial and real estate markets are governed by the opposing tension between greed and fear. Everyone wants to make money, but everyone is also afraid of losing what he has. Although few would ascribe their desire for prosperity to greed, it is simply a rose by another name. Greed is the elemental motivation for the economic risk-taking and hard work that are essential to a vibrant economy.
But over the past generation, government has removed the necessary counterbalance of fear from the equation. Policies enacted by the Federal Reserve, the Federal Housing Administration, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (which were always government entities in disguise), and others created advantages for home-buying and selling and removed disincentives for lending and borrowing. The result was a credit and real estate bubble that could only grow — until it could grow no more.
Prominent among these wrongheaded advantages are the mortgage interest tax deduction and the exemption of real estate capital gains from taxable income. These policies create unnatural demand for home purchases and a (tax-free) incentive to speculate in real estate.
Similarly, the FHA, Fannie and Freddie were created to encourage lending by allowing primary lenders to turn their long-term risk over to the government. Absent this implicit guarantee, lenders would probably have been much more conservative in approving borrowers and setting interest terms, and in requiring documentation of incomes and higher down payments. Market forces would have kept out unqualified buyers and prevented home-price appreciation from exceeding the growth in household income.
Read the whole thing.
I disagree, though that the solution is to take away the home-mortgage interest deduction and the capital gains break. It would be much better to restore the deduction for all interest (as it is for business, and was for individuals until the tax “reform” in 1986). It’s not fair to have to pay tax on interest earned as income, but not be able to deduct interest paid.
Also, rather than treating houses preferentially, peg all capital gains taxes to inflation, to eliminate having to pay a tax when the actual value hadn’t increased.