Point, counterpoint

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To the Editor:

In his response to my Letter to the Editor (August 25, “Rebuttal to the rebuttal”), Joseph Passafiume reduces the complex tale of the housing meltdown of 2008 to a single villain, the Community Reinvestment Act, which had terms, according to Mr. P, “requiring banks to grant loans to individuals with no conceivable ability to pay them back.” Ridiculous. Some lending standards were relaxed in order to make up for years of redlining and other discriminatory practices, but banks simply packaged and sold those unsecured loans as if they were top-grade. Besides, most of the substandard loans were made by nonbanking institutions not bound by the CRA.

“The individuals stopped repaying their loans and banks found themselves in danger of going bankrupt.” Wrong. Don’t blame the little guy who was in way over his head, suckered in by adjustable-rate mortgages. The system collapsed when the repackaging and selling of the bad mortgages could no longer be financed.

“The war started in 2003 was not U.S.-instigated.” Are you joking? According to Mr. Passafiume, President Bush was led into war by our “tens of coalition partners.” Ahh, we should blame Tony Blair, or perhaps it was the leader of Poland who twisted our arm. And “success was achieved, Iraq was stable.” Talk about revisionist history.

To call Iraq “stable” after the surge by our forces is looking at the situation with very rose-colored glasses. The lack of a residual U.S. force is something that may be argued over, but regardless of how many U.S. soldiers are there, the Iraqis seem to have no ability to act as a unified nation. Previously held together by the dictator Saddam Hussein, the divisions among Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds could not be healed by 10,000 U.S. soldiers.

Mr. Passafiume is a great armchair quarterback, reducing multiyear developments to actions by President Obama, whom he judged the day he was elected.

What did President Bush do to reduce or eliminate the “threat” from an Iranian nuclear weapon? Nothing. In fact, the invasion of Iraq precisely eliminated that country as our useful counterweight to the regional power of Iran. What would Mr. Passafiume have us do, preemptively bomb Iranian nuclear-related facilities?

When our Marines’ barracks were bombed during President Reagan’s administration, was Mr. P similarly outraged? Was he overcome with anger at President Bush for allowing 9/11 to occur during his watch? I would guess probably not. Compared with those disasters, the tragedy in Benghazi was nothing.

I’m not going to continue with tit-for-tat economic statistics. The forces of globalization and especially technological advancement, including automation, have altered many workplaces beyond what a single president can change in a few years. I would only ask: Is the U.S. better off economically today than it was when President Obama was inaugurated?

Finally, I suspect that Mr. Passafiume’s presidential ranking will not be one supported by many historians.

Steve Auerbach

Oak Bluffs