As the falling housing market shakes financial institutions and pummels Americans in an election year, the nation's economic woes have surged to the top of voters' minds. The timely question: To what extent are politicians and regulators at fault?
Democrats are quick to blame Republicans, who were in power during the housing bubble and subprime lending frenzy. For years, America's leaders failed to restrain the markets, companies, investors and consumers from the missteps that led to the most pervasive financial crisis in decades.
But in hindsight, the failure stretches across government and across party lines. At bottom are two strong currents. From the Republican president to urban Democratic congressmen, homeownership was pushed as an overriding and unquestioned goal. And many significant attempts at regulation were obstructed by the prevailing belief that the economy did best when financial markets operated as freely as possible.