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Phil Angelides’s Contentious Crew

Congress’s Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, chaired by former California treasurer Phil Angelides, concluded in its 545-page report that the financial “upheaval” was “avoidable.”

Phil Angelides

In the end, it’s just one more tome purporting to explain the causes of the crash. Actually, it proffers three competing explanations. After 18 months and more than 700 interviews, Congress’s Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, chaired by former California treasurer Phil Angelides, concluded in its 545-page report that the financial “upheaval” was “avoidable” and can be squarely blamed on the usual suspects: lax regulators, reckless bankers, demonic derivatives, heedless borrowers, cynical hedge funds and desultory rating agencies, along with a “breakdown in ethics” and way too much debt.

However, in an illustration of the axiom that history is the past viewed through ideology, the four Republicans on the ten-person commission issued dissents to the majority Democratic conclusion. Former California Congressman Bill Thomas and two other commissioners cited ten causes, conspicuous among them the credit and housing bubbles. And Ronald Reagan’s former White House counsel, Peter Wallison, zeroed in on the government’s housing policy as the “sine qua non” of the crash. So who’s right? We probably won’t know that until the inevitable next financial crisis — and the inevitable next commission.

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