On Tuesday, in a letter to the editor, a student wrote about the Occupy Wall Street protests, comparing them to the Civil Rights Movement (which it is nothing like) and stating “Wall Street institutions created this economic situation in the first place.” The author of this letter is completely incorrect.
First of all, the housing bubble bursting caused the economic crisis. The reason for this occurrence is not, as many OWS protesters seem to think, “big, evil banks and corporations.” The cause was actually an extraordinary amount of subprime mortgages and rampant speculation in the housing market. But why did this occur, and why were such a vast number of people who could not afford the homes they owned (the reason for the number of subprime mortgages) actually owners of those homes?
The first of the two biggest factors contributing to the housing bubble is the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, signed by President Jimmy Carter. This legislation’s goal was to eliminate discrimination in giving loans to residents and businesses in low-income areas. An effect of this, of course, was that it encouraged banks to give loans to individuals who could not afford to repay them.
The second of these two large factors was part of President Bill Clinton’s plan to increase home ownership. Clinton directed Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Henry Cisneros to create a plan to do just that. Known as the National Homeownership Strategy, it took fiscally irresponsible steps in order to increase the number of individuals who own homes (the documents can easily be found online). Just so no one feels I’m being partisan, President Bush continued with these policies.
These two things, which put additional regulations on the private sector, are the root cause of the recession. Both are examples of government overregulation. Maybe the OWS protesters should go occupy Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter’s houses instead of trying to go back to Zucotti Park, especially since their policies are the reason we’re in this mess in the first place.
Adam Rawlins is a junior majoring in political science.