The Corner

Frankly Speaking

Democrats took the Congress in 2006 in part because they succeeded in making Tom DeLay and Mark Foley the faces of the Republican majority, giving Democratic challengers a better target than their own, often personally popular, GOP opponent. Republicans tried to turn the tables on 2008, but fell short (it was never going to be their year, anyway).

And so we have the spectacle of Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.

In a recent Business Week interview with Maria Bartiromo, Frank explained the new philosophy of liberalism as corporate bailout:

It’s hardly the American way to just let people go bankrupt. You know, people tell me, “Oh, let’s just let the market do it.” We have American agricultural policy, for example, in which tens of billions of dollars are spent on helping farmers. Second, we are in the worst economic situation since the Great Depression. We are losing jobs at a fearful rate. People are frightened. People are not spending. It would be one thing to have a company collapse at a time of great prosperity when the people who lost their jobs could find other jobs, when the [suppliers] who couldn’t sell to Chrysler could sell to somebody else. At this point, you are talking about a very weakened patient, and slapping that weakened patient around in the interest of proving some economic theory would cause even more damage.

Just goes to show how “conservatives” helped to cue up the bailout mania by refusing to slash corporate welfare when they had the chance. And get this exchange with Bartiromo:

With all due respect, congressman, I saw videotapes of you saying in the past: “Oh, let’s open up the lending. The housing market is fine.”

No, you didn’t see any such tapes.

I did. I saw them on TV.

Yeah, well, I never said open up the housing market, the market is fine. In 2005 a group of us in Congress were trying to pass a bill to restrict subprime lending, and we were opposed by right-wing Republicans led by [former House Majority Leader] Tom DeLay, and I don’t remember us being able to get any media attention. No, I have been on the record as saying repeatedly that pushing people into homeownership when they can’t afford it is a bad idea for them and the economy. In 1994, in fact, Democrats in Congress passed a bill giving the Fed the authority to restrict subprime lending. Alan Greenspan, as he later admitted, refused to use it.

You’d think by now politicians would know that video is forever. But then again, if it’s working for you, why change it? Also, I was struck by how comfortable Frank is with the term “czar.” For now until the end of time, conservatives should react with visible disgust at every use of the word to describe a proposed federal official, saying something like this: “We don’t have czars. We are still the United States of America.”

John Hood is a syndicated columnist and the president of the John William Pope Foundation, a North Carolina–based grantmaker.

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