opinion web
Conservative Opinion General Opinion
Froma Harrop
Froma Harrop
11 Feb 2016
Some Sage Advice for Hillary Clinton

I come not to rebuke Hillary Clinton, who remains by far the most capable presidential candidate. I come … Read More.

9 Feb 2016
Our Love-Hate Relationship With Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is upon us. And to think we are still recuperating from Groundhog Day. That's February for you,… Read More.

4 Feb 2016
And the Oscar for Most Stunning Actress Goes to ...

We are here not to discuss the complex #OscarsSoWhite controversy but to address another sore point with … Read More.

Heaven Must Wait for a Money-Savvy Public


In the conservative paradise, a nation of strong, hard-working individuals borrow responsibly and save for future needs. They don't need government telling them how to manage their money. If they do foolish things, they pay the price.

I like that vision, but it has little to do with the world we live in.

In the world we live in, hucksters (including some of the finest names in U.S. finance) take good Americans to the cleaners. This has been going on since the start of the Republic. If some of the world's most sophisticated investors could fall for Bernie Madoff's con, imagine how easy it was for slick salesmen to lure honest people into predatory loans or fake investments.

So the conservative argument that the market punishes the careless, the lazy and the overconfident is only partly right. And what about the truly innocent bystanders, the ones in no money trouble who must cope with the resulting sick economy and pay the costs of the cleanup?

Strong financial regulation protects us all. The reform legislation in Washington is almost a done deal. (It will soon head to the rule-making federal agencies, where a lobbyist army is waiting to influence the results.) A new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is supposed to erect a wall between the yeomanry and the more evil financial products.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling, a Texas Republican involved in negotiating the reform bill, complains that the new bureau would "take choices away from consumers and choke desperately needed credit out of our economy."

As long as the rest of us have to pick up after Americans' bad choices, we should have no problem limiting the menu. People of modest means should not be able to take out a no-money-down, $300,000 mortgage with a tiny teaser intro rate that explodes in their faces after a few years.

As for concern about choking off needed credit, has Congressman Hensarling looked at the mortgage market lately? It's pretty much gone for all but the most sterling credit risks.

Had a consumer protection agency put some brakes on the housing madness, the real-estate market would be in far better shape today, and there'd be a lot more mortgage money around.

Hensarling is hardly alone in preferring a free-market fairy tale to the harsh realities here on earth. Like many other "conservative" members of Congress, he voted against the bank bailout, letting his colleagues do the heavy lifting. The bailout disgusted everyone, but it stopped a financial collapse. Politicians who argue that it wasn't necessary are like the guy who lets someone else put out a fire in his house, then says it would have eventually gone out on its own.

And spare us the phantasmagoria of a financially savvy public. Yes, some got into trouble because they were greedy or too lazy to read their contracts. But America's supreme economic authorities — including the chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank — had downplayed the risky nature of their ventures.

Protecting consumers is, of course, only part of the financial overhaul legislation. Importantly, the bill seeks to stop banks from gambling with deposits backed by the taxpayers.

Future legislation will have to deal with the monster twins, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These two companies helped create the housing bubble by pairing cheesy mortgages with virtual taxpayer guarantees. They are essential right now to holding up today's fragile housing market, unfortunately.

As we survey today's crumpled landscape of mass foreclosures, rampant debt and financial fraud, the notion of a citizenry equipped to prudently manage their money without government regulation is lovely but utterly off the wall. That heaven will have to wait a good long time.

To find out more about Froma Harrop, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at




1 Comments | Post Comment
Oh, my heart! Froma has taken a view conservatives have taken for years! What happened, Froma? Did reality intrude into your brain despite your best left leaningst?
Comment: #1
Posted by: bo jones
Tue Jun 29, 2010 3:48 AM
Already have an account? Log in.
New Account  
Your Name:
Your E-mail:
Your Password:
Confirm Your Password:

Please allow a few minutes for your comment to be posted.

Enter the numbers to the right: comments policy
Froma Harrop
Feb. `16
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa
31 1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 1 2 3 4 5
About the author About the author
Write the author Write the author
Printer friendly format Printer friendly format
Email to friend Email to friend
View by Month
Marc Dion
Marc DionUpdated 12 Feb 2016
Connie Schultz icon
Connie SchultzUpdated 11 Feb 2016
Joe Conason
Joe ConasonUpdated 11 Feb 2016

6 Aug 2015 Ethical Hunters Shocked by Cecil Story

8 Oct 2015 Political War All the Time

11 Sep 2008 GOP Back On The Polarization Trail