How 'Community Organizers' (like Obama) Created the Subprime Crisis
By Jerry Bowyer
I wrote to you previously (Meet Barry Obama, 'Fair Housing' Lawyer) about the Community Reinvestment Act, a law which compels banks to make home loans in minority neighborhoods to people who were poor credit risks. Although the CRA is well known in the financial industry, political pundits and reporters often know very little about finance and so have missed this extremely important aspect of the story.
Ignorance of economics doesn't help much either. The political class seems blissfully unaware of the concept of unintended consequences which is the idea that laws which are designed to make our lives better often make our lives worse.
On a recent edition of Kudlow and Company, I debated Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders on precisely this point. He seemed not only to disagree with my point that if congress compels banks to make Subprime loans, then they share responsibility for the crisis that results when the borrowers default; he seemed not to understand it. For him once we identify the target group as bankers, nothing else matters - they're bad and he's good, no more reasoning is necessary.
It's not just Congress that's responsible. Yes, they forged the weapons, but some army needed to wield them. That's where guys like Barry Obama came in to the picture. When Barry (who was gradually changing his name to Barack around this time) graduated from Columbia, he took a brief stint as a researcher writing for a corporate consulting firm. According to his memoirs he thought of himself as 'a spy' who was dropped 'behind enemy lines'.
Shortly thereafter, he left the enemy territory of corporate America and moved to a job about which he could feel proud - he went to work for the New York branch of the Public Interest Research Group. PIRG is one of those left of center activist groups who, among other things, uses the legitimate concept of 'fair housing' to force banks into making bad loans. PIRG has actively lobbied for a stronger (yes, you guessed it) Community Reinvestment Act.
According to his bio, and accounts from friends, Obama became an expert in real estate law and fair housing while working as a community organizer and public interest lawyer. This is especially the case during his Chicago period.
After graduating from law school Barack worked for various community groups which were attempting to get black churches politically involved in left-of-center causes. He was hired because the Developing Communities Project, which was headed by two older Jewish gentlemen, was having trouble making headway in the black community.
By then, the name change to Barack was complete and so was the shift to an Afro-centric identity. Barack was a natural. He was able to play upon crowds' sense of racial identity, castigating black audiences for their failure to embrace the right policies, but offering hope to them in the form of his own leadership. He joined a prominent Afro-centric church at this time, headed by Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
Eventually Barack joined the civil rights law firm, Miner, Ballard and Galland, where he specialized in fair housing. That's where he did work for the (now indicted) Syrian-born entrepreneur Tony Rezko. Rezko was a very powerful and politically connected urban real estate developer who did quite a lot of business with the government. Rezko helped Barack go from public interest lawyer to State Senator. And Rezko didn't just help Barack into the upper legislative house, he helped him into his family house as well. One wonders to what degree Rezko was helped by low-income-sub-prime-lending-fair-housing-industrial complex of urban Chicago. For all the details we may need to wait for the Rezko trial.
One thing, however, is perfectly clear already. Obama spent his pre-elected career working right in the middle of the complex of law firms and activist groups which use law and regulations to push banks into vastly increasing their lending to Subprime borrowers right in the middle of the golden age of the expansion of the Subprime industry.
Mr. Bowyer is chief economist of BenchMark Financial Network and a CNBC contributor.