Journalism, Lies and Elections

OK, let me preface this as a person that’s really not all that impressed with either political party nor either candidate, but I read this and wondered what the Dopers out there would think about it. It’s an article by a supposed Democrat journalist, and it lays some blame at the feet of “lefty” journalists and the Democrats for being complicit in our current economic crises.

Let me say that I think that the “cause” of this economic slowdown goes far deeper than the housing crises, but read for yourself and let me know what you think. I know nothing of the veracity of the source, so please don’t rip me a new one over the supposed biased nature of the cite, but rather the content. I am curious.
**Would the Last Honest Reporter Please Turn On the Lights?
By Orson Scott Card **

*Editor’s note: Orson Scott Card is a Democrat and a newspaper columnist, and in this opinion piece he takes on both while lamenting the current state of journalism.

An open letter to the local daily paper — almost every local daily paper in America:

I remember reading All the President’s Men and thinking: That’s journalism. You do what it takes to get the truth and you lay it before the public, because the public has a right to know.

This housing crisis didn’t come out of nowhere. It was not a vague emanation of the evil Bush administration.

It was a direct result of the political decision, back in the late 1990s, to loosen the rules of lending so that home loans would be more accessible to poor people. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were authorized to approve risky loans.

What is a risky loan? It’s a loan that the recipient is likely not to be able to repay.

The goal of this rule change was to help the poor — which especially would help members of minority groups. But how does it help these people to give them a loan that they can’t repay? They get into a house, yes, but when they can’t make the payments, they lose the house — along with their credit rating.

They end up worse off than before.

This was completely foreseeable and in fact many people did foresee it. One political party, in Congress and in the executive branch, tried repeatedly to tighten up the rules. The other party blocked every such attempt and tried to loosen them.

Furthermore, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae were making political contributions to the very members of Congress who were allowing them to make irresponsible loans. (Though why quasi-federal agencies were allowed to do so baffles me. It’s as if the Pentagon were allowed to contribute to the political campaigns of Congressmen who support increasing their budget.)

Isn’t there a story here? Doesn’t journalism require that you who produce our daily paper tell the truth about who brought us to a position where the only way to keep confidence in our economy was a $700 billion bailout? Aren’t you supposed to follow the money and see which politicians were benefiting personally from the deregulation of mortgage lending?

I have no doubt that if these facts had pointed to the Republican Party or to John McCain as the guilty parties, you would be treating it as a vast scandal. “Housing-gate,” no doubt. Or “Fannie-gate.”

. . .

If you want to redeem your honor, you will swallow hard and make a list of all the stories you would print if it were McCain who had been getting money from Fannie Mae, McCain whose campaign had consulted with its discredited former CEO, McCain who had voted against tightening its lending practices.

Then you will print them, even though every one of those true stories will point the finger of blame at the reckless Democratic Party, which put our nation’s prosperity at risk so they could feel good about helping the poor, and lay a fair share of the blame at Obama’s door.

You will also tell the truth about John McCain: that he tried, as a Senator, to do what it took to prevent this crisis. You will tell the truth about President Bush: that his administration tried more than once to get Congress to regulate lending in a responsible way.

This was a Congress-caused crisis, beginning during the Clinton administration, with Democrats leading the way into the crisis and blocking every effort to get out of it in a timely fashion.

If you at our local daily newspaper continue to let Americans believe — and vote as if — President Bush and the Republicans caused the crisis, then you are joining in that lie.

If you do not tell the truth about the Democrats — including Barack Obama — and do so with the same energy you would use if the miscreants were Republicans — then you are not journalists by any standard.

You’re just the public relations machine of the Democratic Party, and it’s time you were all fired and real journalists brought in, so that we can actually have a news paper in our city.*

Fannie and Freddie were not primarily responsible for this mess. Lots of links within the above link.

But I am also far from an expert on this. So correct me if it’s warranted.

If Card is calling himself a journalist now (most of us know him better as a novelist), isn’t it a bit disingenuous for him to be saying “All you journalists should have blown the whistle on this situation a long time ago”? If the risk was so obvious, then presumably he saw it. Did he say anything about it?

Orson Scott Card is a Democrat journalist kinda like McCain is a little Chinese boy named Aladdin. He’s a hack sci fi writer who is neck deep in both LDS and Neo-con flavor-ade. His POV on homosexuality should establish his position nicely.

It, quite erroneously, lays all of the blame.

So, if this guys journalistic credentials and party affiliations are in question, what about the content of the article? Hogwash? True? Shades of grey?

I have never heard of this dude nor the meridian website. This was a forwarded email (which raises the obvious air-raid alarms), but…is he right on any of this?


Ooooh, he’s a homophobe Mormon. Ouchie goes the credibility scale. However, despite that, what is erroneous in the piece I posted?

It’s true that this crisis is definitely not all the Bush administration’s fault. Blaming it all on Clinton isn’t any more apt. Nor is the issue Card devotes most of his space to, which is that Obama is the candidate of “the media.” I don’t trust commentators who play the game of “if X were Y, you’d do this.” It’s impossible to disprove, so the conclusion of favoritism that’s drawn from it isn’t valid.

Or hey, maybe that’s all completely true wherever Card lives.

I don’t know enough about the facts of the housing crisis to dispute whether Barney Frank or Christopher Dodd are the primary actors responsible for it, as Card seems to think. If he is attempting to accuse the the press of deliberately ignoring this story until it became too big to overlook, however, he’s done a piss-poor job of it. His thesis seems to be little more than ‘the press protects Democrats!’, but for such a claim to work in this case, one would have to completely ignore the lack of coverage of the incipient crisis by the (fairly right-wing) business media, which presumably would have at least as much interest, if not more, in following this story than the general press.

Beyond that, Card lost any credibility with me the third time in about three paragraphs that he claimed that “if John McCain did such and such, the press would be all over it.” That variation on “if apples were horses then your grandmother would be a toaster” is one of the weakest arguments there is.

It’s an opinion piece, not reportage and Card is certainly entitled to his opinion. Mine is that there next to nothing factual in it.

As an aside, as often as Ender’s Game gets mentioned around this joint, I’m rather surprised that the OP never heard of him before. Oh, well.

FoieGrasIsEvil, please do not quote entire essays from other sources.
Quote relevant key passages, then provide a link to the actual article.
What’s the policy on copyrights?
[ /Modding ]

From his Wikipedia entry:

So he’s a Democrat sort of like Robert Byrd, Joseph Lieberman and Zell Miller are Democrats.

“…facts of the mortgage crisis…” I meant to say.

I do not know that Card is a homophobe and the point is irrelevant to the discussion.

I do not know that the editor of that journal lied about Card being a Democrat and the point is irrelevant to the discussion.

What is relevant to the discussion is that Card has seriously rewritten history in a way that makes even his few accurate observations appear as lies.

Laws were written and modified (over 20 years ago) to pressure lending institutions to make a better effort to lend to poorer people. (However, the laws also included clauses that exempted the lending institutions from giving loans when the value of the property was less than the amount of the loan.)

Various government agencies did exert a certain amount of pressure on lending institutions to figure house value as generously as possible to encourage those institutions to give out more loans. (However, the rules specifying that the loans should not be given if the property was not worth it or the borrower had no means to repay it were never suspended.)

That situation continued for many years, (with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac being serious, players, but not actually the major players among the financial institutions involved), with no serious problem.

Later, various people found ways to take advantage of the rules to buy property at low rates and “flip” it to make a profit with little investment, beginning to create a bubble within the greater bubble of the housing market. Many financial institutions, gambling that they could offload the questionable loans onto second tier loan buying institutions winked at the bad loans they were authorizing, “secure” in the knowledge that they could sell those loans and not be holding the bag when the borrowers possibly defaulted. Some of those institutions even pushed loans on people who were clearly not capable of handling them. (That situation was exacerbated by the practice of setting Adjustable Rate Mortgages that started at sub-prime rates with enormous rate jumps a few years into the loan. Many people were foolish enough to fail to understand the consequences of that jump. In addition, many speculators assumed that they would be able to resell the properties before the rate spike occurred.)

The various loans were then bundled together and sold en masse to other institutions outside the traditional markets for handling such loans–some of which markets were not under Federal regulations and some of which markets had relatively recently been deregulated. As the loans were further consolidated and passed to other institutions–many of them outside the U.S., nearly all of which failed to do due diligence to ensure that the loans were stable–the exposure of a lot of banks and other financial institutions increased.

When the housing bubble began to burst, the value of the collateral on those loans collapsed, serously deflating the values of the loans. Then investors began calling for the lending institutions to make sure that they could cover the losses. Since so many speculative loans had been made on overvalued (or worthless) properties, the ability of all the various financial players was seriously compromised. As people saw the loans collapsing, more of them began to pull their funds out of the troubled institutions, effectively causing runs on those institutions.

Blaming the entire situation on attempts to let poor people have access to affordable housing is an execrable attempt by some sectors to avoid taking responsibilty for the mad speculation and rampant recklessness of people and institutions who waded into the mess with their eyes closed.

Their is a modicum of truth that the initial impetus for some less than secure loans were the result of the actions of Congress to provide more housing to more people. The claim that that was the foundation and cause of the whole mess is bullshit. Card’s further claims about virtuous Republicans, malicious or foolish Democrats, and willfully blind news outlets is nothing more than a one-sided hatchet job that looks like it was written by the Office of Special Projects once they got done lying us into Iraq. This is not to say that Democrats and the news media are innocent victims, but they were as blindsided by events as the financial institutions that took the losses. Claims that the Republican really wanted to do the right thing, but were blocked by the Democrats contain no more truth. Everyone involved bears some measure of culpability.

He doesn’t have any journalistic credentials. He is not a journalist and has never claimed to be. There is a difference between being a columnist and being a journalist.

Card is a popular science fiction writer. His most well known books are the Ender’s Game novels. He has no special expertise in economics, and his column reads to me like the standard, right wing bloviating you’d hear on any afternoon radio show.

Correction: Card is a SURPRISINGLY popular SF writer.

His opinion holds no more weight than that of any other of THOUSANDS of bad SF writers, or, to place it more plainly, any of any number of Homespun Writers, whose opinions end up in the filler pages of any number of Free Podunk Shopper Weekly’s. Whose readers are FAR more interested in the TRUE FACTS than ANYTHING sponsored by the local funeral home.

I’ve seen people bring up the attempts by Republicans (specifically, the White House) to establish oversight and warnings by Greenspan, all being rejected by Dodd. This seems like a rather bold lie if it is one, so my guess would be that it’s true but…there’s some sort of mitigating factor X: Just as many Republicans supported Mac & Mae or Just as many Democrats challenged Dodd, etc. Might I ask precisely what mitigating factors there are on the Democratic side, in regards to this challenge? Or if it is a bald lie, could you provide some sort of cite to that effect?

Rush Limbaugh thought so too and read Orson Scott Card’s column aloud on his show.

At any rate, please correct me if I am mistaken, but didn’t Greenspan testify just yesterday that he had been somewhat wrong in his insistence on deregulation?

I ain’t a player, I just invest a lot!

Thank you, tomndebb for the in detail response. I kinda figured that this was pretty much BS, but I wanted to see if we could probe a little deeper. I realize it’s a complex issue, but I was curious as to the complicity of our elected officials in this whole mess.

SageRat’s post addresses this, I’d like to see if anyone is familiar with the situation re: Dodd and his supposed reluctance to “acknowledge anything was wrong until the bitter end”.

This article by Daniel Gross seems apt:

The original lofty stated goal was to get more of the working poor into homes. These people were not inherently bad risks* but with virtually all income going to rent, food, transportation, and health care; it was near impossible to save a down payment.

By relaxing the down payment requirement; total outlays for P,I,&T was often less than rent and the people could maintain CONVENTIONAL mortgage payments.

As noted in Tomdebb (sp), the loopholes were exploited in fashions not originally envisioned. Exotic packages with no principle, balloon payments, adjustable rates, and the like were marketed along with outsized homes to ever more risky clients. Contributions to legislators from vested interests and perhaps snark//tips on hot hedge funds//snark helped calm the legislative waters. The stock market running up (see dot com boom) based on all the HOT paper being passed ensured cautious voices were not herd over the stampede.

*During early years of the relaxed programs, loan default rates were unremarkable. Evidence from micro-loan programs in third world countries also indicates working poor are statistically not worse than existing customers.