George W. Bush

The meltdown happened on Bush’s watch. While Clinton got the ball rolling with sub-prime lending, Bush failed to bring in much tighter regulation, bar the Sarbanes-Oxley Act brought in after the Enron scandal. And he didn’t do a lot to stop the boom in lending to “Ninjas” [no income, no job applicants].

He took a free market approach that avoided the regulation of banks and mortgage brokers, leaving much of that work to the Federal Reserve, which, under Alan Greenspan, showed little appetite for regulation. By the time Bush’s current Treasury secretary, Henry Paulson Jr., proposed an overhaul of regulations governing the financial sector in April, the storm was already brewing.

To his credit, Bush accurately foresaw the danger posed by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, and began calling as early as 2002 for greater regulation of the mortgage giants. However When SEC head William Donaldson tried to boost regulation of mutual and hedge funds, he was blocked by Bush’s advisers at the White House as well as other powerful Republicans and quit.

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