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"Waist Deep in Evasions"

It's true! Ol' George Will can still belt out a good one every once in awhile:
We are waist deep in evasions because one cannot talk sense about the cultural roots of the financial crisis without transgressing this cardinal principle of politics: Never shall be heard a discouraging word about the public.

Concerning which, a timeless political trope is: Government should budget the way households supposedly do, conforming outlays to income. But the crisis came partly because so many households decided that it would be jolly fun to budget the way government does, hitching outlays to appetites.

Comments

You'll probably agree with this, but I think lenders and lendees are equally culpable. You can point the finger to individual families completely appropriately, but let's not forget the folks who blindly decided to earn a few bucks as they transferred obviously inappropriate risk to investors.

And, of course, the investors who relied on the constant uptick of the housing market to ensure that apparent risk remained low (kind of like relying on no hurricane hitting the gulf coast over a five year period).

And of course the government whose deregulation and tax structure made housing so attractive.

And of course a cultural attitude toward home ownership (I heard it a LOT) that literally told you that renting was throwing your money away and that home ownership was really the holy grail of financial advice.

Your comments are perfectly appropriate, but I wanted to point out the vast array of factors that came together to shelter individuals from the consequences of their actions for so long time so that foolishness looked like wisdom.
I will absolve the lendees to this point: Until about a decade ago, banks scrutinized loans most carefully, and if they lent you money, there was a reasonable assumption that if you were properly budgeting, you could pay it off. This had been true for decades, so when it changed, lendees though that they should be able to afford it if the banks were lending it.

However, I do not forgive the lack of numeracy that made such an assumption possible. No, not everybody understands numbers. But those that do not should either learn or have someone who knows better to check the figures.

Oh, and "Buy now or be priced out forever" is a particularly nasty piece of fear-mongering. I knew better and even I got worried until I remembered the consequences and turned it around— "If I am priced out forever, what then?" And I realized that renting for the rest of my life is much better than total insolvency and endless meals of ramen.
As I took it, the point is that most of those other folks you mention are getting blamed 24/7 in Congress, in campaign speeches, and on CNN. Will wasn't offering the whole picture, just making up for the omission. It's not as simple as "some hard-working people were taken for a ride," either. Look at the situation with credit card debt: It may not be about to take down the financial system, but it is more evidence that we have prioritized feeling prosperous over acting responsibly. So, fix the regulations, punish the wrongdoers, restore proper pricing to the housing sector and... aren't we just as likely to do it again?
We might be. But the lenders, not the would-be homeowners, are the ones who start that snowball a-rolling. Lenders don't offer "exotic financial instruments" because people are begging to have them, but in hopes of making a profit by manipulating them. Lots of people had a hand in this crisis, but it started because lenders wanted to increase their profits by offering loans to people who were at greater risk of being unable to pay. A larger share of the blame does belong to the lenders than to the lendees.
I agree with this. I'd also say lending institutions offer an easier "correctional chokepoint" (if you follow my made-up terminology there) than trying to make people more fiscally conservative in their lifestyle choices.