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Paul Kiesel
Paul Kiesel
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Bush Makes Fun of Housing Crisis: ‘Wall Street Got Drunk’

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Last week, at a Houston fundraiser for Republican congressional candidate Pete Olson, President Bush asked for the TV cameras in the room to be shut off. Unaware that iPhones exist, and that someone could be recording him with such a device, he then proceeded to do a two-minute standup act that one might find David Letterman or Jay Leno doing during their opening monologues. Unfortunately, and in bad taste, Bush chose to make fun of the housing crisis, which can be viewed on YouTube, Facebook and ABC News.

Bush started his ill-timed comedy routine with, “There’s no question about it. Wall Street got drunk. That’s one of the reasons I asked you to turn of the TV cameras. He got drunk and now it’s got a hangover.” And, yes, he said “he” and then “it” in reference to the same noun within the same sentence. Bush continued, “The question is: How long will it sober up and not try to do all these fancy financial instruments?”

Bush must be talking about the same financial instruments that were permitted to exist up until recently, thanks to a Republican-led Congress that passed several deregulation bills almost a decade ago, including Former Republican Texas Senator Phil Gramm’s Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000; thus, allowing for the Enron debacle and the subprime disaster that this country is currently facing.

Bush went on to say, “And then we’ve got a housing issue — not in Houston, evidently not in Dallas, because Laura was over there trying to buy a house today.” At this point the president was smiling from ear to ear and laughing at his own jokes.

Bush continued joking and, to a room full of laughter, said that, “I like Crawford — Unfortunately, after eight years of asking her [Laura] to sacrifice, I’m now no longer the decision maker.”

The president’s tone and remarks drastically depart from his tone and statements made last week in regards to struggling American families, the foreclosure crisis, the housing bill, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Last Tuesday, Bush said, “It’s been a difficult time for American families [. . .] We must ensure we can continue providing credit during this time of stress [. . .] When will the economy turn around? I’m not an economist. But I do believe we’re growing. I’m an optimist and there are a lot of positive things about our economy,” (CNNMoney.com, 7/15/08).

Bush must have been so optimistic that during that same week he felt it was appropriate to make fun of a struggling economy and families/homeowners that were battered by fraudulent and insidious lending practices by companies like Bear Stearns, IndyMac and other former reputable banks/lenders that no longer exist, due in large part to their own myopic avarice during the subprime boom (issuing loans that were illegal according to the Truth in Lending Act). This was all allowed to be executed under a Bush Administration that heavily promoted homeownership, even though they were fully aware of how deregulated and dangerous (for consumers) mortgage lending had become.

And what are these “positive things” the President is talking about? Why isn’t he specific enough to name one or two of the “positive things?” Home prices are down 15% nationwide from last year (according to the Case/Schiller home price index), California’s foreclosure rate for the second quarter of 2008 is up 261% from the previous year, the economy has lost jobs for the last six months in a row, and Wall Street has moved into a bear market, with stocks trading 20% below recent highs. Plus, inflation is crushing American families like an iron heel, as gas and grocery prices continue to rise. Are these the “positive things” the president is talking about? And is it really appropriate for Bush to make fun of struggling American families, in front of room full of, most likely, affluent Bush donors that are largely impervious to the pangs of the mortgage mess, thus, kicking the former while their down?

Bush has shown the country how he really feels about the mortgage/housing crisis (with at least one camera capturing the president’s candid self) and the economic challenges average Americans face: Bush is ambivalent towards the situation at best, but most likely he’s indifferent about it all, as he finds the housing crisis insignificant enough to make fun of it and the victims of it, during the same week he tells media outlets how concerned he is about the challenges Americans are facing.

Barney Frank, whose housing bill will be voted on today in the House, said last week that, “The top financial officials of George Bush’s administration have come before the public and said, ‘We’re from the government, and we’re here to help you.'” However, the president is also here to laugh at you.