How Bush's HUD responded to the mortgage crisis

As the housing crisis erupted, Bush's HUD secretary made matters worse.

Published April 14, 2008 1:59PM (EDT)

I've marveled for years at the apparent corruption and incompetence in Bush's Department of Housing and Urban Development, but the Washington Post ran a disconcerting front-page item yesterday explaining that mismanagement and criminal investigations arguably weren't the most offensive part of Bush's HUD.

In late 2006, as economists warned of an imminent housing market collapse, housing Secretary Alphonso Jackson repeatedly insisted that the mounting wave of mortgage failures was a short-term "correction."

He pushed for legislation that would make it easier for federally backed lenders to make mortgage loans to risky borrowers who put less money down. He issued a rule that was criticized by law enforcement authorities because it could increase the difficulty of detecting and proving mortgage fraud. [...]

[Critics] contend that Jackson ignored warnings from within his agency, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, whose inspector general told Congress that some of the secretary's efforts were "ill-advised policy" and likely to put more families at risk of losing their homes.

Hmm, why does this sound so familiar? Bush puts an unqualified buddy in charge of a major federal agency, the Bush buddy ignores the concerns of qualified aides and experts, the buddy then sees a crisis emerge and chooses to intentionally not act, and when pressed for an explanation, the White House says Bush's buddy is doing a heckuva job.

It seems to be a running theme with these guys.

And here's the kicker -- while foreclosures rose and default rates hit the roof, Bush's HUD secretary treated himself with "an emergency bid to obtain oil portraits of Jackson and four other HUD secretaries at a cost to taxpayers of $100,000."

If the housing crisis weren't so serious, this kind of ridiculousness might even be funny.

By Steve Benen

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