Peter S. Goodman
International Herald Tribune
July 14, 2008

In a country that holds itself up as a citadel of free enterprise, Washington has morphed from being the lender of last resort into effectively the only resort for home loans for millions of Americans engaged in the largest transactions of their lives.

Before, the government’s more modest mission was to make more loans available at lower rates. Now it is to make sure the loans that matter most to middle class Americans are made at all.

The new reality is scorned by libertarians and conservatives, who fear intrusions by the state in the market, and by populists and progressives, who rue a society in which education and housing increasingly rest upon the government’s willingness to finance it.

“If you’re a socialist, you should be happy,” said Michael Lind, a fellow at the New America Foundation, a research institute in Washington. “But you should really wonder whether you want people’s ability to pay for housing and college dependent on the motives of people in Washington.”

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