Right Wing Nut House

9/22/2009

CONSPIRACY MONGERING, PARANOID TV HOST IS NO CONSERVATIVE

Filed under: Media, Politics, conservative reform — Rick Moran @ 10:19 am

Yes, but is Glenn Beck good for the conservative movement?

After all, even if the man who seriously wondered whether the fasces symbol on the back of a 1917 dime meant that the US government under Wilson was promoting fascism is a little excitable, and, by his own admission, a “clown,” many rock ribbed conservatives seem to have adopted this paranoid waif as one of their own.

Peter Wehner believes that spells trouble for conservatives:

I say that because he seems to be more of a populist and libertarian than a conservative, more of a Perotista than a Reaganite. His interest in conspiracy theories is disquieting, as is his admiration for Ron Paul and his charges of American “imperialism.” (He is now talking about pulling troops out of Afghanistan, South Korea, Germany, and elsewhere.) Some of Beck’s statements—for example, that President Obama has a “deep-seated hatred for white people”–are quite unfair and not good for the country. His argument that there is very little difference between the two parties is silly, and his contempt for parties in general is anti-Burkean (Burke himself was a great champion of political parties). And then there is his sometimes bizarre behavior, from tearing up to screaming at his callers. Beck seems to be a roiling mix of fear, resentment, and anger—the antithesis of Ronald Reagan.

I understand that a political movement is a mansion with many rooms; the people who occupy them are involved in intellectual and policy work, in politics, and in polemics. Different people take on different roles. And certainly some of the things Beck has done on his program are fine and appropriate. But the role Glenn Beck is playing is harmful in its totality. My hunch is that he is a comet blazing across the media sky right now—and will soon flame out. Whether he does or not, he isn’t the face or disposition that should represent modern-day conservatism. At a time when we should aim for intellectual depth, for tough-minded and reasoned arguments, for good cheer and calm purpose, rather than erratic behavior, he is not the kind of figure conservatives should embrace or cheer on.

Wehner is about where I was on Beck 6 months ago - a superficial reading of the man based on his outrageousness rather than making a close examination of both his stagecraft and what he sincerely believes is his “philosophy.” Since then, I have tuned in several times in order to get a better feel for where he’s coming from.

It does no good to point out the dichotomies in Beck’s on-air personae - the rational mixed with the illogical and unreasonable - because the reality Beck has created for his legions of fans encompasses the whole smash of semi-serious critiques of Obama and liberals with a passionate, heartfelt objectivism that breeds an “us vs. them” universe taken to extremes where absolutely anything is possible. How many times have I seen Beck look right into the camera and refer to some outrageous exaggeration of what Obama and the Democrats are up to and say “This is part of their plan.”

I see this “government by conspiracy” theme repeated in comment threads across the internet, and while Beck is certainly not the only pundit to advance it, he seems to be the one getting the most mileage out of it. By making opposition to liberals a cause to “take back the country” from socialists and Marxists, Beck has drawn what amounts to a “Grand Unified Conspiracy Theory” that apes the worst of what Ron Paul supporters were advancing during the campaign last year. The rich and powerful are in league with Obama and the liberals to steal our money, turn the US into a Marxist state, and rig the system so they will remain in power indefinitely.

No doubt, Beck was right about Van Jones, ACORN, and the bunch gimlet eyed radicals Obama has been peppering the government with since he got into office. But, my children, this is not conspiracy; this is politics. Obama throwing sops to his radical base by tossing a few fellow travelers and pinkos into positions of marginal responsibility is hardly indicative of the International Communist Conspiracy (does it still exist?) making inroads into the highest levels of the US government. Nor is there any evidence that there is some kind of “plan” to turn us all into good little communists, or take over the American economy, or hand us over to al-Qaeda, or “destroy the country,” or enslave us in some kind of Obama-manufactured socialist paradise.

From what we’ve seen of this crew, they aren’t smart enough to pull something like that off. Jesus Lord, look at the problems they’re having getting health care reform passed. And these are the revolutionaries who are going to remake America into some kind of Marxist Utopia?

I will ask the same question of Beckites that I asked of liberals when Bush was president; how can someone be extraordinarily incompetent and stupid while at the same time demonstrate Machiavellian cleverness in amassing power to become a dictator? Paranoid thinking throws logic out the window and allows those afflicted with it to find it perfectly natural to believe in two obviously mutually exclusive concepts.

Why Beck’s following among conservatives? Basically, his rabid opposition to Obama and liberals tends to obscure the objectivist streak that runs through much of his more rational critiques of the left. I like Dan Riehl’s take:

Only a media that doesn’t know what one is, or is more interested in defining them to be what they want them to be, as opposed to what they really are, would mistake Glenn Beck for a conservative. He isn’t and never has been that, so far as I’m aware.

[...]

What he has always reminded me of most is Larry “Lonesome” Pines played by Andy Griffith in A Face In The Crowd. And, unfortunately, no, that one didn’t end very well for many of the people involved.

And that brings us to Beck’s stagecraft, and as Riehl points out, his resemblance to the manipulative, darkly cynical personality of Larry Pines. The homespun, down to earth charm that was the public face of Pines masked a coldly calculating mind that sought to turn his radio celebrity into political power. I’m not saying that Beck wants to run for office. He’s too smart for that. But his stunts - and perhaps some of his more outrageous, exaggerated claims about Obama and the left - are extremely effective drama, worthy of anything any Communist propagandist ever dreamed of.

But this goes to the heart of the Beckian phenomenon: Does he really believe everything he says? Or is he just cynically manipulating the fears of his mostly conservative audience, playing to their paranoia about Obama that is also being stoked by other talk show hosts on the right?

Time’s David Van Drehle isn’t sure of the answer himself:

No one has a better feeling for this mood, and no one exploits it as well, as Beck. He is the hottest thing in the political-rant racket, left or right. A gifted entrepreneur of angst in a white-hot market. A man with his ear uniquely tuned to the precise frequency at which anger, suspicion and the fear that no one’s listening all converge. On that frequency, Frankowski explained, “the thing I hear most is, People are scared.”

[...]

His fears are many — which is lucky for him, because Beck is responsible for filling multiple hours each day on radio and TV and webcast, plus hundreds of pages each year in his books, his online magazine and his newsletter. What’s this rich and talented man afraid of? He is afraid of one-world government, which will turn once proud America into another France. He is afraid that Obama “has a deep-seated hatred for white people” — which doesn’t mean, he hastens to add, that he actually thinks “Obama doesn’t like white people.” He is afraid that both Democrats and Republicans in Washington are deeply corrupt and that their corruption is spreading like a plague. He used to be afraid that hypocritical Republicans in the Bush Administration were killing capitalism and gutting liberty, but now he is afraid that all-too-sincere leftists in the Obama Administration are plotting the same. On a slow news day, Beck fears that the Rockefeller family installed communist and fascist symbols in the public artwork of Rockefeller Center. One of his Fox News Channel colleagues, Shepard Smith, has jokingly called Beck’s studio the “fear chamber.” Beck countered that he preferred “doom room.”

It might be accurate to say that Beck is dumb like a fox and doesn’t actually subscribe to half of what he proposes. That’s not the half I’m worried about. If he wants to manipulate the emotions of his emotionally overwrought audience by creating an alternate reality where any cockamamie dot connecting is possible, more power to him and American capitalism. If millions of Pet Rocks could be sold, it should be obvious, as the equally cynical H.L. Mencken once said, “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.”

I would add to that the caveat “about some things.” And one of those things is an apparent weakness of ours that knows no ideological boundaries, but manifests itself in our desperate desire to believe things about the political opposition that is demonstrably untrue. Whether Beck taps that undercurrent of resentment and fear deliberately or whether he has had the good fortune to fall into his success, doesn’t matter. The effect is the same; mindless and distorted opposition that plays into the hands of our political enemies and makes rational discourse impossible.

Stacy McCain thinks this opposition to Beck by people like Wehner is based on “envy” due to Beck’s overwhelming success, and what he has referred to in the past as “careerist” impulses among some conservatives who seek to climb the ziggurat of power in Washington by trashing “the grass roots.”

The GOP establishment in Washington has a surfeit of such parasitical careerists, who think that the Republican Party is about them, and not about all those millions of grassroots people who are, in fact, the conservative movement.

Wehner’s attack on Beck is framed as if the problem is political or ideological, but in fact the problem is Wehner’s own envy and ambition, which poisons his soul. And we know where that kind of attitude leads.

I wonder how Stacy can glean “envy” from Wehner’s discourse - perhaps he has been vouchsafed an ability us lesser mortals have been denied. I know that if I were a religious man, I would hit my knees every night and thank the Lord that, as muddled as my thinking can be at times, I am saved from the affliction of illogic and paranoia from which Glenn Beck apparently suffers.

How success automatically makes one impervious to criticism, I have yet to figure out. And what it has to do with whether Beck is a manipulative cynic also escapes me. I guess Stacy is saying that because Beck is hugely successful, this is proof that he is a logical, reasoned, thoughtful man - or perhaps he’s merely “effective.” If that’s the case, then we have reached a point in our political discourse where instilling fear and loathing using wildly exaggerated, over the top charges of conspiracy on the part of the opposition is the best path to power.

Is there nothing wrong with that picture? For millions of conservatives, apparently not.

22 Comments

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Rick Moran. Rick Moran said: Is Glenn Beck a danger to conservatives? Is he even a conservative? http://bit.ly/2gJbdJ via @addthis [...]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention Right Wing Nut House » CONSPIRACY MONGERING, PARANOID TV HOST IS NO CONSERVATIVE -- Topsy.com — 9/22/2009 @ 11:07 am

  2. @RWNH: “If that’s the case, then we have reached a point in our political discourse where instilling fear and loathing using wildly exaggerated, over the top charges of conspiracy on the part of the opposition is the best path to power.”

    Cripes. Are you saying we have become Liberals? Wait … that WORKED for them just recently …

    Yes and look where they are now - headed to disaster in 2010. You don’t think the same thing won’t happen to conservatives in 2012 if they take back power? What’s the agenda? What do we intend to do with that power? The same tactics Beck, Limbaugh and the rest are using will simply be transposed and the left will pick up on it.

    Is there a better way to gain power and keep it by dint of superior ideas? And why ape the absolute worst behavior of your opponents? That is insane.

    ed.

    Comment by DoorHold — 9/22/2009 @ 11:41 am

  3. Beck has done a good job helping to expose ACORN, Van Jones etc. However I totally disagree with his equation that Democrats = Republicans. There are essentially no good congressional Democrats and the Republicans have RINOs but they also have some really good conservatives. Democrats are unredeemable but Republicans as a party still can carry the banner for conservatives.

    Comment by grumpygresh — 9/22/2009 @ 1:11 pm

  4. Interesting, I have been calling them Becktards. While I find myself agreeing with Beck on most issues. I do see him using fear to get his point across far too often. While in some cases his conspiracy “theories” are spot on, they are fomenting a rather rabid base that freaks me out as much as Code Pinko wenches.

    I’d prefer he use fact rather than feelings,fact rather than theory. But then again no one is forcing me to watch him. I just worry that some of his fan base are becoming too defendant upon him, rather than thinking on their own. Something I have found prevalent on the left.

    Comment by Jenn of the Jungle — 9/22/2009 @ 1:20 pm

  5. Beck is on Mark Levin’s bad side because he said that we would be worse off if McCain had won. That is right folks, after all this raving about how Obama wants to ruin the country Beck is saying he is better than McCain. Of course McCain would not bankrupt the country or turn tail and run from Afghanistan, but it seems Beck does not care about any of that.

    Beck did not go after ACORN or Van Jones, not really. Rightie blogs did that, Beck just put it on his show because he knew all that would boost his ratings.

    Beck is out for Beck. He hates Republicans as much or more than he hates Democrats….and he made that plain when he said Obama is better than McCain.

    I will not watch his show anymore. I don’t trust him.

    Comment by Terrye — 9/22/2009 @ 1:24 pm

  6. I don’t always agree with GB, he seems a bit of the drama queen and a little light on understanding the true foundation of Conservatism or Liberal/Libertarianism….but he has a lot of fans and on balance I think he is good for opening the voters minds as to the failure of our Federal Gov. Even though I voted for McCain, I tend to agree McCain would have been a different disaster than Obama and probably worse than even GWB in besmirching Cons. IMO, we got to survive Obama and I think the country will self right itself.

    Comment by WestWright — 9/22/2009 @ 1:33 pm

  7. I like Beck. I do not like you. Do I swoon on his words No. He is good at what he does. I rely on several sources to make up my mind not just one persons opinion. This administration is a detriment to my health and his spoon full of sugar makes it go down easier.

    Comment by Andrea — 9/22/2009 @ 1:55 pm

  8. Great column, great points… but I always thought the Andy Griffith character was named Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes… A great movie for a variety of reasons, the biggest one being seeing sweet old Andy Griffith playing someone so nasty.

    Comment by Guy from NH — 9/22/2009 @ 2:03 pm

  9. I agree. Beck makes no sense in the ways that he puts facts together.I really hate it when he poses these questions like “Was Obama affiliated with ACORN?” and then show this mishmash of conspiratorial fact based quotes from elected leaders saying ONE THING in one clip, and then ANOTHER THING in another clip a few months later. He thinks these are “lies” and chooses to call them out on it ON AIR! Who does he think he is? Rush Limbaugh? Then, he cashes in on “patriotism” to foment people to oppose the left leaning president’s socialist policies based on economic facts! He must think he’s on Fox. Heck, I feel like I’m watching something so true to life, and geared towards the working, no-handouts, “I-know Obama-hates-white-people-because-of-the people-he-surrounds-himself-with-hate-white people”,real liberty lovers, it must be illegal. Also, because this forum has no registration process, I feel that the 6/6 people posting they hate Glenn Beck is disproportionate to how many people - like me - who love his fact based reporting. Everything he says he backs up with historical facts/writings/video/media of the people he talks about. He doesn’t need “educated elites” to explain to us, whose “intelligence cannot be underestimated” to explain things. All he does is open the box on lies, backdoor deals, and secret alliances from Washington. All we liberty lovers have to do is hear what is said at the Union meetings and the Latino and Black caucuses. All we have to hear is the contradictions, and where the funding goes. We know what to do from there. At the very least you leftists should love it, as it represents the 1% opposing voice to the 80% of newspapers/MSM/White House who oppose him. Remember the Fairness Doctrine! Tut tut, let both sides be heard! Yet he consistently has these huge ratings! The majority of Americans must agree with him! I know his show sure beats the hell out of Air Amerika! You can’t beat lies with truth. The best you people can hope to do is smother out and black bag his show. Even then, the truth of liberty, and freedom from the government will be heard somewhere. You will never smother us.

    Comment by Righty — 9/22/2009 @ 2:43 pm

  10. Glenn Beck is a political commentator who has a very small but somewhat vocal following. His influence over political policy is virtually non existent.

    Comment by B.Poster — 9/22/2009 @ 2:50 pm

  11. It depends upon which axis you are measuring on.

    I believe Beck sees no difference between the two majority parties because they are both big government parties. The difference is emphasis, not size.

    Beck (and I increasingly) measures on the size/control of government less is, generally, better. This is a Libertarian approach which is how he has aligned himself. He doesn’t hide this.

    In terms of orginalism, I cannot find that the founders thought much good would come from a strong federal government. They wrote the Constitution to make the government just strong enough to stand - as it did not under the Articles of Confederation. They further limited it, at the State’s insistence with the Bill of Rights.

    This has been usurped. If you are measuring along the freedom from government controls, you end up measuring as Beck does. Unless you define it as controls you like vs. controls you don’t like. This is the standard spectrum.

    Anarchy is bad, no doubt, but we have slid VERY far towards totalitarianism, with an Oligarchy of Elites (from both parties) ruling and squabling over how they get to divide the pie they just stole form the citizens.

    Remember, government cannot give what it has not first taken.

    Who are you recommending we take from to fund your pet project? Is this theft moral?

    http://www.lovetolearnplace.com/History/NotYoursToGive.html

    Comment by Rob — 9/22/2009 @ 6:42 pm

  12. Beck said he would vote for Hillary. What sane conservative would say that? Is Hillary a small government person? Please. Beck is out for Beck..plain and simple. All this big government little government stuff is just a talking point with him.

    I find the idea that Beck would think Hillary or Obama would be a better Commander in Chief than McCain to be insane, nuts and irresponsible.

    Comment by Terrye — 9/22/2009 @ 7:47 pm

  13. I have to state a disclaimer: I’m neither a conservative nor a Republican (a centrist Democrat), so I apologize for barging into this intramural quarrel. But as something of an outside observer, I think much of Rick’s and others’ distaste for Beck is overdone.

    Beck is something of a flake, a loose cannon who has no stake in the institution of the GOP or its institutional interests. So it’s not surprising that support or opposition to the guy breaks along this line — with the knock against McCain making matters worse (Limbaugh never much cared for Mac and Hannity often criticized him, but those guys would never say Mac would have been worse.

    Beck is also something of a “populist,” which should not be seen as a compliment. You can shoehorn most any resentment together with any other and claim to be “on the people’s side,” which surely seems to be the direction Beck is headed.

    On the other hand, in addition to giving wide circulation and real force to some attacks on the administration that are fair, if not earth-shattering, Beck keeps up a steady taunting of everything about or related to Obama and the Democrats which strikes me as very much like the relentless Bush-bashing of eight years past. Not only was (is) there “truther” conspiracy-mongering, there was the shameful, constant effort to associate Bush and company with the Saudis with the evil implication of blood for oil. Which was in turn connected to the endless battering of Bush and Cheney for supposed nefarious ties to Halliburton, Big Oil and others. And of course, Bush was constantly under attack for attempting a different sort of “radical transformation” of America — namely shredding the Constitution, improperly centralizing federal power I the President’s hands, etc., all of which threatened our freedoms and put us on the path to fascism.

    It was not a few nutty bloggers who churned out this stuff daily for years, but MSNBC hosts, national columnists, and even some leading Dem politicians.

    Along the same lines, beck (and others) are drawing a picture of Obama at the center of a vast left-wing conspiracy (why is that familiar?), featuring George Soros, MoveOn, Apollo, ACORN, Rev. Wright, Bill Ayers, the Daley machine and others.

    Beck’s picture is exaggerated, and inaccurate. But it’s a polemic, not a detached analysis, just as the attacks on Bush were polemical.

    The problem for the right is not whether Beck “goes too far” or paints a false picture. It’s whether he can be trusted as a polemicist with a prominent platform and a big audience to be partisn — to help Republicans, even when he might consider them inadequate, too liberal or whatever. Rudy Guiliani might be able to win in New York, but only be running as a practical moderate (which is what he is). Ditto Simmons V. Dodd in Connecticut. And Kirk in Illinois — among others. Will Beck have the discipline to keep his populism’ or Perotism, or libertarianism or whatever it is in check?

    I doubt it. Beck is more likely to do whatever will boost his audience — and that’s not likely to be simply helping the GOP to win

    Comment by John Burke — 9/23/2009 @ 12:37 am

  14. Serious question:

    What exactly is the problem with ACORN?

    I’ve tried to find out what they do that makes them such a deadly plague to many on the Right . . . but all I find are hysterical rants and hyperbole.

    They looked to me to be a relatively non-threatening and socially useful group (as useful as any other), but the creep of ACORN-hate from the hinterlands of Whack-a-doodlevania into mainstream Conservative conciousness suggests that I’ve missed something very serious and very obvious.

    I’ve no problem being wrong in my opinions, but I’d like to know why I’m wrong for not viewing them more critically.

    Seriously, somebody let me have it with both barrels. Why are they bad?

    This is a good primer:

    http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=ZjRjYzE0YmQxNzU4MDJjYWE5MjIzMTMxMmNhZWQ1MTA=

    Kurtz bends over backwards to be fair to ACORN here.

    It’s not only their agenda which is avowedly socialist in nature (banks owned “by the people” as well as “means of production” in the hands of “workers.”) it is far and away their tactics that should bring them in disrepute with anyone who values democracy. And not just isolated chapters who engage in physical intimidation of their targets, threats, and actual violence on occasion. It is systemic.

    As is their voter registration fraud where they work hand in hand with unions. It has never been proven that the tens of thousands of fake voter registrations - well beyond “Mickey Mouse” and Dick Tracy - have been used by unions to stuff ballot boxes. But given their extremely close relationship with unions and the history of union shenanigans at the ballot box, you can put two and two together and be at the very least suspicious.

    Their role in intimidating banks to give loans to people so incredibly unqualified to own houses that they were set up to default played a role in the financial crisis last year. I am not convinced that it was a decisive role, but tens of thousands of sub prime loans would not have been let without ACORN. (This piece by AmSpec writer Matthew Vadum gives some background on that.)

    You can go on and on. But make up your own mind. The fact that these folks were going to help with the Census is laughable. And Obama owes them a debt because most of his volunteers during his first state senate run as well as subsequent campaigns were ACORN staffers.

    ed.

    Comment by busboy33 — 9/23/2009 @ 2:25 am

  15. Beck said he would vote for Hillary. What sane conservative would say that?

    Didn’t Ann Coulter say the same thing before the nomination?

    Comment by Steve J. — 9/23/2009 @ 2:58 am

  16. [...] Moran must be thinking the same thing, and dismisses it. “…And that brings us to Beck’s stagecraft, and as Riehl points out, his resemblance to the manipulative, darkly cynical personality of Larry [...]

    Pingback by Beck As In a Wreck – Is Demigod Nursing POTUS Ambitions? : The Pink Flamingo — 9/23/2009 @ 7:01 am

  17. Anyone who makes a statement that questions ”does International communism still exist?”has lost me.
    Anyone who decries Becks assertions that there is no difference between the two parties,is in denial. The Repubs have had their chance at ”leadership” and they failed - badly. Does anyone really think that if the populace had not risen up that the Repubs wouldn’t have just gone along with the democrats??
    I know who Beck is…who is Rick Moran???
    And that ladies and gentlemen, is the bottom line.

    The “bottom line” is that I didn’t ask if “international communism” existed but rather the old time Bircher canard about the “international communist conspiracy” - a wry witticism that went so far over your head it barely fluffed your hair.

    I’m not surprised I lost you when it is apparent you can’t even read.

    ed.

    Comment by T.Paine — 9/23/2009 @ 7:38 am

  18. Beck is Beck. He is not a conservative. He is more libertarian. His statement that McCain would have been worse is true in some sense and vastly wrong in another sense.

    Coulter herself said she would have voted for Hilary rather than MbCain and I certainly could understand that. McCain was the Republican that loved to cozy to Democarats and knife the conservatives in the back.

    However McCain would not have renege on the missile defense radar in Czech. He would have allowed the upgrade and testing of our nuclear weapons.

    He would not have socialized and nationalized the auto companies. He would not have tried to ram national Health care down out throats.

    However McCain would have destroyed the conservative movement because McCain is not a principlaed conservative. McCain Feingold shouls he did have the understanding of the first amendment and would saacrifice it for hia own reason that money in politics corrupts. That is true but government tryanny is worse tham corruption

    Comment by RAH — 9/23/2009 @ 8:16 am

  19. Whoops! I meant that McCain does not understand the first amendment.

    Beck is aiming at Obama and even if he is not a conservative his goals and some of his premises agree with ours. So we take our allies when we can.

    Comment by RAH — 9/23/2009 @ 8:18 am

  20. ACORN could be the worst organization ever conceived of, and its leaders may be accused of trying to bring the Socialist Eden to America. But your explanation of the financial crisis and Acorn’s impact on it don’t stand up to rational scrutiny.

    Mattherw Vadum’s piece you refer to is full of the inaccurate, popular business commentary posted in various places. The “radical experimentaion” of the CRA in 1977 was a response to the continuing practice by banks that refused to make mortgage loans in certain parts of major cities. Growing up in Chicago, you have to remember that period. And I’ve said it before and will say it again: If the CRA (or it’s changes in the 1990s) were responsible for last year’s financial crisis, then why didn’t we have the same kind of crisis during the recessions of 1980, 1981, or 2000 or the slowdowns of 1989 and 1994?

    “Banks felt the heat from community organizers and CRA examiners and instead of fighting, they made loans they shouldn’t have and paid out millions of dollars in protection money to ACORN and its brethren.” Seriously. Has this guy ever even walked into a bank, much less dealt with one? Do you really think banks made loans they knew people would not pay back? For what? I worked for two large banks for 17 years and the CRA examination was taken very seriously. We documented any community involovement we could to show we were good citizens. But why would a bank make a loan and know they would start becoming a real estate tycoon? Earnings suffer, which means the stock price suffers. Those guys are much more interested in stock prices then CRA examiniers.

    “The advent of Mortgage-Backed Securities (MBSs) by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac gave banks an added incentive to write risky loans, because they knew they could dump their dubious mortgages onto Fannie and Freddie investors who counted on a government bailout if things got rough.” Just plain wrong. MBSs have been around for 40 years. They are the reason most of us who own homes were able to get a mortgage at a reasonably low rate. They match long term borrowers with long term investors (of which a bank is not). Fannie and Freddie have been creating these pass-through securites for years. The reason they almost brought the system down, and where they got greedy, is that they held on to more and more of them rather than sell them to investors. When housing values went down, the assets on their books went down in value as well. This caused problems for their balance sheet, their liquidity, and ultimately their solvency.

    “MBSs received strong bond ratings from credit agencies in part because Fannie and Freddie, which had been ordered to place politics over profit making, had long enjoyed an implied guarantee from Uncle Sam, so investors bought them with confidence.” Mostly wrong. MBSs received a high credit rating because, historically, they paid back something like 97% of principal and interest in a timely fashion. The implied gurantee didn’t make them more credit worthy, but probably caused mortgage rates to be lower than they should have been. And it wasn’t politics that drove Fannie and Freedie. They issued publicly held stock, their managers received stock compensation, so they were encouraged to make lots of money so their stock prices would go up. Pretty simple self-interest at work.

    “Economist Stanley Liebowitz wrote that the current mortgage market debacle is “a direct result of an intentional loosening of underwriting standards—done in the name of ending discrimination, despite warnings that it could lead to wide-scale defaults.”” Partly right again. The crisis was indeed due to the loosening of underwriting standards. But the disaster came not at the hands of social scientists or socialists but at the hands of capitalists. Somehow investors became convinced that not having proof of income or having poor crdit was OK if you were buying a house. Once that happened the banks and Wall Street starting printing money and could see no reason to stop. The former chairman of Citigroup actually said something like “As long as the music plays, we’re going to keep dancing.” Doesn’t sound to me like ACORN was holding a gun to his head to make these loans.

    I went through Vadum’s piece in detail to debunk some of the myths of what’s happened over the last two years. ACORN could be the worst group in the world (I’ve had my own run-ins with them). But this crisis was caused by excessive, unregulated capitalism, not creeping socialism.

    Comment by Larry, your brother — 9/23/2009 @ 8:34 am

  21. But what about Dan Riehl’s further point that Beck, if left to shepard up all the Paulians and push for a third party: the result is a resounding Dem. win.
    My personal paranoia is that this is the long term plan.
    Why trust Fox?
    Why not realize that Beck has been formed for this position, to stir up the populist right. The planners knew years ago this was the only way the Democrats could hold on to the office. And it worked so well with Perot.
    Fox is also hosting Huckabee! The Gov. gives a sermon on the radio every day in front of the noon hour replacing that old crank who used to end “good day!” Huckabee just won the Values Voters straw pole.
    And if I let my paranoia really blossom–why doesn’t any blogger in lieu of the success of Mad Men, ever explore the advance of advertising 50 years hence, the influencing of mobs,the turnng of opinion via backlash or subtle leaks. Maybe a sociologist would know.

    Comment by Bob — 9/23/2009 @ 3:11 pm

  22. @Rick:

    Thanks for the links. I disagree with alot of the conclusions drawn from the facts provided (and I’m not sure “bending over backwards to be fair” means the same thing to you as it does to me), but at least these are facts that a rational person could use to come to a negative impression of ACORN in a reasonable manner. This, at least, makes sense.

    One comment you made confused me though:

    “As is their voter registration fraud where they work hand in hand with unions. It has never been proven that the tens of thousands of fake voter registrations - well beyond “Mickey Mouse” and Dick Tracy - have been used by unions to stuff ballot boxes.”

    Are you talking about stuffing ballot boxes at union elections, or general elections? If it was union elections, why would the union be dealing with ACORN in the first place? If it is the general elections . . . what voter registration fraud? Did anybody vote under a fraudulent name? If so, did they give fraudulent name to the clipbord pusher, or are you dsaying that ACORN intentionally registered tens of thousands of fraudulent names and then co-ordinated with tens of thousands of people to frudulently vote under them? If its the latter . . . that sounds pretty paranoid without any kind of evidence. Like Truther paranoid.

    Regardless, again an honest thanks for the articles.

    Comment by busboy33 — 9/23/2009 @ 10:44 pm

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