Has socialism already failed in the United States?

How many nations have already embraced socialism’s promise of paradise but instead experienced the effects of socialism’s disastrous reality?

CNN’s “Venezuela: How a rich country collapsed” details how Venezuela, considered the “richest country in Latin America,” in only 20 years became the current poster child of socialism’s disastrous reality. But is there an example in recent memory on your own doorstep?

There is little doubt that the 2008 housing market collapse was precipitated by extensive subprime loans. Subprime loans take the form of interest-only loans, option adjustable rate mortgage loansultra-long fixed-rate loans, balloon loans, and no-money-down loans. Such loans have a higher risk of default. According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, "These borrowers have been delinquent, bankrupt, or have low credit scores and/or low income. Specifically, they've been delinquent on their payment with two or more 30-day delinquencies in the past year."

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In 1977, the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) was passed, encouraging banks to lend to low- and moderate-income borrowers. 

Sue Kirchhoff and Judy Keen reported in “Minorities hit hard by rising costs of subprime loans” that subprime lending surged because lenders have been supported by politicians and community leaders eager to promote minority homeownership, which remains about 25 percentage points below that of white non-Hispanics, subjecting these borrowers to “debt servitude.”

Under Andrew Cuomo in 2000, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced the historic federal regulations that raised the required percentage of mortgage loans for low- and moderate-income families that finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had to buy “from the current 42 percent of their total purchases to a new high of 50 percent — a 19 percent increase.”

In “Yes, the CRA Is Toxic,” Edward Pinto reported that “50 percent of CRA loans for single-family residences were nevertheless made to borrowers who made down payments of 5 percent or less or had low credit scores — characteristics that indicated high credit risk.” Some lending institutions reported 19 to 35 percent delinquency rates on CRA-mandated loans versus 2 percent on non-CRA loans. And Pinto reported that “Bank of America said in 2008 that while its CRA loans constituted 7 percent of its owned residential-mortgage portfolio, they represented 29 percent of that portfolio’s net losses.” This lead him to conclude the following: “Whatever the precise magnitude of the CRA’s role, there is no question that as the government pursued affordable-housing goals — with the CRA providing approximately half of Fannie’s and Freddie’s affordable-housing purchases — trillions of dollars in high-risk lending flooded the real-estate market, with disastrous consequences.”

The Financial Crisis Inquiry Report (FCIR) concluded, “As a nation, we set aggressive homeownership goals with the desire to extend credit to families previously denied access to the financial markets. Yet the government failed to ensure that the philosophy of opportunity was being matched by the practical realities on the ground. ... The talk of opportunity was tragically at odds with the reality of a financial disaster in the making.” 

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The FCIR further reported that government-sponsored enterprises such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac "used their political power for decades to ward off effective regulation and oversight — spending $164 million on lobbying from 1999 to 2008." It added that "from 1999 to 2008, the financial sector expended $2.7 billion in reported federal lobbying expenses; individuals and political action committees in the sector made more than $1 billion in campaign contributions. ... The nation was deprived of the necessary strength and independence of the oversight necessary to safeguard financial stability."

The career politician’s purging of regulations, promises of lavish rather than affordable home ownership and legislation forcing risky loan practices to “low- and moderate-income families” resulted in, according to the FCIR, “about four million families … [losing] their homes to foreclosure and another four and a half million … [slipping] into the foreclosure process or ... seriously behind on their mortgage payments.” 

Isn’t this a clear example in recent memory that affected us all of socialism’s promise of paradise but instead delivered socialism’s disastrous reality?

So much of the rhetoric from our career politicians professes the socialist promise of paradise to elicit campaign contributions and votes with candidates pledging free education, free housing, free health care, promises of rewards without labor, promises of spending without expense and promises of a Shangri-La existence supported by the government.

But when the smoke clears, aren’t the financial consequences resulting from the disastrous reality of socialism carried on the shoulders of the very people who relied on the socialist promises from these career politicians, politicians who continue to enjoy their profits from the billions “in reported lobbying” and “campaign contributions?”

With this experience, do we want to support contenders who would expose our health care, education, housing and other social infrastructures to the financial consequences, on our shoulders, of the “disastrous reality of socialism?”

John M. DeMaggio is a retired Special Agent in Charge for the U.S. Postal Service Inspector General. He is also a retired Captain in the U.S. Navy, where he served in Naval Intelligence. The above is the opinion of the author and is not meant to reflect the opinion of the U.S. Navy or the U.S. Government.