Friday, April 03, 2009

Ask the Neo-Con, Part IX

UPDATE: below

Occasionally, I answer queries about my neo-conservative philosophy (most are linked under "Ask the Neo-Con" on the sidebar). Recently, commenter "Thai" questioned "How do you define a conservative?" Because it was off-topic, I responded briefly that one attribute is the understanding that "freer markets will enable individuals and society to. . . best balance[] price and quality." Thai reacted by wondering whether "Freedom of choice is ALWAYS how you define a conservative?????."

Thai's follow-up seemed like an attempted "got-ya" on abortion. I never debate abortion policy, limiting my discussions to the law, the purported reasoning and process. Still, this post provides some analysis, including the constraints on choice.

The topic is, of course, well-plowed ground. Many of the best known remarks are negative, including John Stuart Mill, Colin Welch, the Duke University philosophy department, virtually the entire Berkeley faculty--some of which took taxpayer money to conclude conservatives share "Fear and aggression, Dogmatism and intolerance of ambiguity [and] Uncertainty avoidance." Obviously, most such critiques are condescending--as is the analysis Thai endorses, by U. Va. psych prof Jonathan Haidt in a September 2008 piece "What Makes People Vote Republican?." Other views seem downright deranged.

Most importantly, these voices rarely seek the source of right-wing thinking: the father of modern conservatism, the Anglo-Irish Whig MP Edmund Burke (1729-1797). Russell Kirk's widely-read survey "The Conservative Mind" (7th ed. 1985) lists (at 8-9) six principles of Burkean conservatism (I quote only the first phrase of each, except for the third where further explanation is necessary):
  1. Belief in a transcendent order, or body of natural law, which rules society as well as conscience.


  2. Affection for the proliferating variety and mystery of the human existence, as opposed to the narrowing uniformity, egalitarianism, and utilitarian aims of most radical systems.


  3. Conviction that civilized society requires orders and classes, as against the notion of a "classless society." With reason, conservatives often have been called "the party of order." If natural distinctions are effaced among men, oligarchs fill the vacuum. Ultimate equality in the judgment of God, and equality before the courts of law, are recognized by conservatives; but equality of condition, they think, means equality in servitude and boredom.


  4. Persuasion that freedom and property are closely linked.


  5. Faith in prescription and distrust of "sophisters, calculators, and economists" who would reconstruct society upon abstract designs.


  6. Recognition that change may not be salutary reform: hasty innovation may be a devouring conflagration, rather than a torch of progress.
There's much to praise here, particularly the rule of law (based on neutral principles and property rights). I'm more relaxed about economists than Burke was, but equally wary of substituting abstraction for experience--what Assistant Village Idiot calls "A life of successive comforting tableaux."

I've previously quoted a similar six-part summary of Burke's world-view:
  1. a deep suspicion of the power of the state.


  2. a preference for liberty over equality.


  3. patriotism.


  4. a belief in established institutions and hierarchies.


  5. skepticism about the idea of progress.


  6. elitism.
I am not an elitist. Indeed, in that same post, I agreed that "The exceptionalism of modern American conservatism lies in its exaggeration of the first three of Burke's principles and contradiction of the last three." I've often written on points one, two and three. But I am a conservative of the neo-con variety, and thus trust what has proven effective in actual experience. For that reason, I admit to a a somewhat greater faith in point four than previously stated.

Conclusion: I've defined English (Whig) conservatism and the abbreviated American variation. I'm closer to the latter. That means liberty and choice, but it also mandates Constitutional process and popular sovereignty. Both approaches presuppose grown-ups with personal responsibility.

Conservatives are neither cretins nor crazy. Excepting the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, few Democrats credit the right with the positive principles on either list. And, with little understanding of the definition of conservative, it's no surprise that their complaints often are un-focused and illogical.

MORE:

An anonymous commenter:
Neo-conservative, as I understand, grew from the Reagan Revolution when he helped to free those suffering inside Russian gulags ie Natan Sharansky; there can be no prosperity if there exist tyranny.

Paleo-conservatives, as I understand, are the isolationists in Republican Party which is why many were against America's right to defend herself from Islamic-Fascist domination.

Paleos are like Libertarians in that Libertarians have no problem doing dirty dealings with dictators, kleptocrats, Sharia-theocracy because the profit margin is greater.

The difference between the two is that Paleos don't like porn whereas the Libertarians can't have sex without porn.
See also this testament.

23 comments:

Powerboss said...

Carl,

You designate yourself as a neo-con. How does this differentiate you from a "conservative", say Reagan, Goldwater, or Buckley, in philosphy?

bobn said...

a deep suspicion of the power of the state.

But why no suspicion of the immense power of the monied interests? The article you linked to the other day in the Atlantic covers this very well.

I would write the first point as "a deep suspicion of any excessive concentration of power".

Carl said...

bobn:

Because unlike sovereigns, corporations aren't vested with a monopoly on lawful cooersion. My relationship with "monied interests" is strictly contractural, giving me legal remedies where appropriate. I am suspicious of any excessive concentration of power--that's why we have antitrust laws--but it's not nearly as threatening as government.

Geoffrey Britain said...

"why no suspicion of the immense power of the monied interests?"

That question indicates a lack of understanding of conservatism.
Conservatives harbor no illusions as to base human nature.

So it's not suspicion of the selfish self-interest of the monied interests which Conservatives lack, indeed we are certain that their motives are commonly selfish.

Societies may inculcate concepts like 'noblesse oblige' and judeo-christain tenants like 'christian charity' but we do not pretend that this ameliorates by much, much less abrogates the natural tendency of people to place foremost their own desires and concerns.

That said, we accept that there is an existential necessity for the accumulation of wealth into the hands of a few. For nothing much can be accomplished without it. Certainly no substantial economic growth can be enjoyed by a society without it.

It's not the accumulation of wealth which is the problem but what those who enjoy wealth shall employ it in service of, wherein the matter resides.

The 'trick' is for society to set up the 'game' in such a way as to make it in the self-interest of the wealthy to use that wealth in ways that are of societal benefit.

Any other configuration of law and economic policy is doomed to at the least, significant inefficiency and at worst, the actual reduction of societal production, the impoverishment and reduction of the middle-class and a concomitant increase in poverty.

Conservatives are positing that liberal compassion is blinding them to the rational observation that what works best for all is that economic system which complies most closely with the reality of economic 'laws' and human nature itself.

While further positing that any economic system that reduces individual freedom is inherently flawed, ultimately unworkable and therefore unacceptable.

bobn said...

Because unlike sovereigns, corporations aren't vested with a monopoly on lawful cooersion.

When the monied can buy the government, what is the distinction? When they can, at will, plunder the Treasury, where are your contractual relationships then?



The 'trick' is for society to set up the 'game' in such a way as to make it in the self-interest of the wealthy to use that wealth in ways that are of societal benefit.

Then we have failed utterly at this trick.

Geoffrey Britain said...

"Then we have failed utterly at this trick."

Perhaps, though I would argue otherwise.

But even if you are right, the value of individual freedom and enterprise greatly outweighs the 'depredations' of the rich.

And, for substantial economic growth to occur, the absolute necessity for the accumulation of a pool of investment wealth in the hands of private investors is irrefutable.

Carl said...

I agree completely with GB. And bobn, I understand why you disagree--you're not conservative. Powerboss, I'm thinking about your question.

bobn said...

But even if you are right, the value of individual freedom and enterprise greatly outweighs the 'depredations' of the rich.

Can you really make that argument in the current situation? That the Banksters owning the government and using it against any conceivable interest of the governed is OK?

And, for substantial economic growth to occur, the absolute necessity for the accumulation of a pool of investment wealth in the hands of private investors is irrefutable.

I can understand this point. I don't advocate that it is government's job to provide equality of results in life. I do expect to be protected from outright fraud and thievery and especially to not be made to pay for said fraud and thievery by others, eg AIG, Goldman Sachs, etc.

Geoffrey Britain said...

Yes, I can and do unequivocally make that argument. Remember that 'locks are for honest people'. And individual freedom and enterprise is a non-negotiable value because to do otherwise is invariably 'a case of the cure being worse than the disease'.

ANY private groups 'owning' the government is absolutely NOT acceptable. Only the people can 'own' the government.

Whatever constitutional measures are needed to regain control should be implemented. (though I doubt that the 'banksters' actually own the gov)

Actually, much of our economic problems stem from over-regulation (primarily responsible for the death of the one-earner family's viability) and, Congressional 'social engineering'. Arguably, with the Community Reinvestment Act and it's modifications and Congresses manipulation of Fannie and Freddie...derivatives never would have emerged as popular financial instruments.

Of course we should establish rules for how the economic game should be played with real punishments for breaking the 'rules'.

Financial Bailouts are an attempt to avoid 'paying the piper'. When it's time to 'bite the bullet', running away from the problem in the long-run only makes it worse.

(forgive the cliches but they're appropriate)

Lame-R said...

bobn--you raise a good point as to why we should be suspicious of government power: If government had not such sway in our affairs, there would be nothing to worry about undue influence from monied corporations.

No governing power is immune from external influences; thus, the stronger the power, the greater the danger from monied corporations, lobbyists, special interests, and popular rage du jour.

You can never insulate a government from undue influence. The safest route is to keep the governing power tightly constrained.

Carl said...

bobn:

We already have prohibitions on buying the government. That's covered in both the rule of law and property rights points. As I said, the state's legal monopoly on the use of force makes it especially dangerous and unlike business.

Though it's a bit off topic, I still think the single-minded focus on illegality misses the point. This financial crisis wasn't (in the main) the fault of fraud. The bailouts weren't passed because Wall Street bought the government and manipulated it at the expense of the people.

You may not agree with the government's decisions (I'm still not sure I do). And I'm not advocating moral hazard. But classing it all as "outright fraud and thievery" blinds you to the actual causes of the crash and the appropriate remedies.

Carl said...

Powerboss:

Neo-cons are a relatively new species of conservatives. The modern heirs of the more traditional conservatives in America sometimes are called "Paleoconservatives." Paleocons typically are more religiously devout, sometimes from more elite or wealthy backgrounds, and often more protective of tradition and family than neo-cons. So--compared to neo-cons like me--traditional conservatives and paleos would have greater attachments to the second point in Kirk's list, and the fifth and sixth point from the other list.

Buckley was a paleocon. Reagan, like most ex-liberals, was not. Goldwater was somewhere in the middle. Despite Wikipedia, Buchanan is sort of a post-paleocon, with some positions indistinguishable from liberals. George W. Bush fits neither category; his father is a paleocon.

OBloodyHell said...

> Other views seem downright deranged.

So, they're pretty much perfect for Thai, then, since he's a complete asshole.

OBloodyHell said...

> When the monied can buy the government, what is the distinction?

Uh, bobn, this is WHY we support strongly limited government. I mean, "DUH"?

If the government can't do anything, there's little favoritism for the wealthy to buy, is there?

Why do you put up such strawman arguments? It's hard to believe you don't see the answers ahead of time, you mostly don't come off as that stupid -- except when you put forth stupid crap like that.

> Then we have failed utterly at this trick.

Really? Funny, I have a flat-screen TV in front of me that is 32" across and cost me less than $550, or less than THREE weeks wages at after-tax min wage (I make more than that, but hey, let's see how the worst off fare, huh?).

Since this same TV would have been impossible to produce about 10 years ago, I think the wealthy have done a pretty damned good job by me and that minwage worker.

Now, to head it off:
"Oh, you can't just measure life by material goods".

OK, fine. Go to your grocery store. See anything? Yeah, you see LOTS of things. You see them because it's worth it to the wealthy to provide all those choices -- many shipped HALFWAY AROUND THE GLOBE due to seasons -- for you, me, and all the other people who shop there. We have fresh lettuce in December.

Why?

Because it's worth it for the wealthy to pay for it to be there.

That's why.

And having lots of good food readily available for me and my friend and my friend's kids... That's one hell of a damned fine thing.

Americans have gotten so used to year-round citrus and "spring veggies" that most of us have forgotten just how REMARKABLE it used to be to have either even in the right time of year.

My GF's brother(born ca. 1910) used to take loads of citrus back to Iowa when he went back after the winter was over. Citrus in Iowa *anytime* was a damned highly appreciated thing, then. Nowadays, people would look at you strangely if you gave them fresh oranges in DECEMBER and thought anything particularly special of it. Because just about anywhere in the USA you can go to the grocery store and buy Chilean Oranges in the middle of winter.

The reason for that is because someone out there (a "rich bastard", almost certainly) is making good money by providing those oranges.

> Can you really make that argument in the current situation? That the Banksters owning the government and using it against any conceivable interest of the governed is OK?

So, you argue that, because of a situation which was screwed up -- even by your own claimed arguments because of the government getting bought off by the monied interests... that the monied interests are the problem?

No, bob, the problem is that too many people expected the government to NOT get bought off. Like some #$^#$^ civil-service employees making $50-100k a year can't be bought off in wholesale quantities?

Better for people to NOT expect such "protection" -- then a plethora of external checks and balances will develop. Some will fail, but most will operate to stop such systemic failures.

Bob, America didn't even GET these kind of massive economic swings until we got "big government" to "protect us" from the little swings. The worst problems that have happened can be blamed -- every time -- on the government screwing up royally.

The government attempts to "correct" cyclic swings using positive feedback.

And you know what positive feedback is a recipe for? Systems massively out of control, that's what.

> I do expect to be protected from outright fraud and thievery and especially to not be made to pay for said fraud and thievery by others, eg AIG, Goldman Sachs, etc.

...and WHY can that happen, bob? Is it because the government has TOO MUCH power, or TOO LITTLE?

Does it happen because the government can pretty much IGNORE your wishes and spend the money it takes from you at gunpoint, demand still more money at gunpoint, and then hand it off to someone else?

And if the government was, instead of the biggest f***wad in the valley, a small, limited thing with no power to coerce such vast sums of money from you, me, carl, bobLA, and geoff (etc., etc.)... would that be better or worse?

======

In 1887, (Grover) Cleveland issued his most well-known veto, that of the Texas Seed Bill. After a drought had ruined crops in several Texas counties, Congress appropriated $10,000 to purchase seed grain for farmers there. Cleveland vetoed the expenditure. In his veto message, he espoused a theory of limited government:

"I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution; and I do not believe that the power and duty of the General Government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit. A prevalent tendency to disregard the limited mission of this power and duty should, I think, be steadily resisted, to the end that the lesson should be constantly enforced that, though the people support the Government, the Government should not support the people."

-- (1892) The Writings and Speeches of Grover Cleveland. New York: Cassell Publishing Co., 450.

The above reproduced from here.


And that's the difference between then and now -- THEN, the Fed was thought of as small and limited. NOW it's got a job to do -- to protect "the people" -- and, as usual, the fat cats have appropriated that "protection" for themselves.

The solution isn't to attempt to fine-tune the protection. The rich bastards will tweak any such effort until it's to their benefit. The solution is to eliminate the Fed's capacity in that regard utterly completely.

And THAT is something that so-called Conservatives and Neo-conservatives grasp, and you, and those far more liberal than you, do not.

====

"To a man, the greatest blessing is individual liberty. To a dog, it is the last word in despair."
– William Lyon Phelps (1865-1943)

"This used to be a government of checks and balances. Now it's all checks and no balances."
- Gracie Allen -

Anonymous said...

I'm a 9/11 convert to Conservatism. I love the idea of Liberty over Tyranny and Conservative principle represent this to me.

#6...elitism...is interesting to me because for so long I accepted Elitism as a form of intellectualism then after my conversion I began to ask myself questions about issues I had never really thought of before.

Take abortion, I am female and for 40 years of my life I accepted without thought that women had the right to.

As I sought my own answer on the subject I asked myself what is the definition of fetus and I can no longer deny that it is a human being.

So whenever I am asked about abortion my response is that 'I am not the one who is being aborted and how have I been given this right to make the choice of whether another distinctly unique human being lives or dies?

Another example is the subject of gay marriage. The fallacy of the initial premise is that homosexuals have been able to marry since the dawn of marriage (which is basically the union of the egg and the sperm..sperm/sperm does not need unification as it is already one and the same)

If anyone can offer me a reasoned meaning of an inane concept as 'same-sex union between a man and a woman' I might support it. Thus far, I would no more change the definition of homosexual in order to fit my agenda than I would change the defintion of marriage.

The Elitist will; they believe themselves so superior that they have all the right to alter, re-define, re-name whatever it is they wish to control.

At the end of the day, however most of the stuff the Elitist comes up with is creepy and intrusive on the Individual which is why they ultimately became tyrannical.

Lastly, this Elitism has nothing to do with wealth and everything to do with their human ego.

Well, "rights are endowed by the Creator"' not Elitists snug in their smug egos.

Anonymous said...

Neo-conservative, as I understand, grew from the Reagan Revolution when he helped to free those suffering inside Russian gulags ie Natan Sharansky; there can be no prosperity if there exist tyranny.

Paleo-conservatives, as I understand, are the isolationists in Republican Party which is why many were against America's right to defend herself from Islamic-Fascist domination.

Paleos are like Libertarians in that Libertarians have no problem doing dirty dealings with dictators, kleptocrats, Sharia-theocracy because the profit margin is greater.

The difference between the two is that Paleos don't like porn whereas the Libertarians can't have sex without porn.

bobn said...

But even if you are right, the value of individual freedom and enterprise greatly outweighs the 'depredations' of the rich.

But there is no freedom to defraud, and free enterpise has demonstrated that it, like anything else needs checks and balances. Even freedom of speech is not total.


As to banksters owning the government, and the recent and current uses of taxpayer money, produced by the coercive power to tax, see this:

Where AIG Bailout Money Went. Note that the biggest beneficiary of our taxpayer largesse has been Goldman Sachs - former employer of then Treasury Sec. Paulson, and that accounts of the weekend the AIG bailout include Lloyd Blankfein - current CEO of Goldman Sachs - in the discussions. Go ahead - tell me this is a coincidence. Further tell me it's a coincidence that the rest of the money went to banks and investment banks. Remember that these are "payouts" on CDS - CDS being nothing more than totally unregulated insurance, which was known by all parties to be empty promises.

CRA was out of the picture by 2004, yet "default rates on subprime adjustable rate mortgages originated in
2005, 2006, and early 2007 were substantially higher than in previous years, and the
defaults were coming quickly—bad loans were showing up within months of origination.
The problems were baked into the mortgage at origination in a way not present before
2005;"
.

The role of the GSEs is harder to decode, but in any case, they were under "regulation" of the OFHEO, part of the Bush executive branch

Carl said...

bobn:

Don't be so quick to claim conspiracy. Neither the Bush nor Obama Administration supported bailout because they wanted to compensate Wall Street firms or execs--they did it in the honest, but perhaps mistaken, belief that it was best for all Americans. That's why limiting the power of big government is more central than limiting the power of business.

bobn said...

Neither the Bush nor Obama Administration supported bailout because they wanted to compensate Wall Street firms or execs--they did it in the honest, but perhaps mistaken, belief that it was best for all Americans.

Right. It's just a coincidence - along with that fact that investment bank employees were the biggest groups of contributors to both sides of the last POTUS election.

Just a coincidence. Suuuuuuure!!!!!

Just like it was a coincidence that Sandy Weill incessantly lobbied the Clinton Admin and Congress for GLB - and then Robert Rubin went to work for Citibank for BIG bucks. (Without GLB, Citigroup was essentially illegal.) Suuuuuure!

And one of Geithner's first appoinments is a lobbyist for Goldman Sachs (one of the Obama admin's *many* exceptions to their own rules). And Neel Kashkari, who runs the TARP, is also Goldman Sachs.

Silly me. What *was* I thinking???!?!?!

OBloodyHell said...

> The role of the GSEs is harder to decode, but in any case, they were under "regulation" of the OFHEO, part of the Bush executive branch

Bobn, you are a complete ASS.

There is NO WAY you remain IGNORANT of the fact that OFHEO BROUGHT the matter of GSE improprieties up with their appropriate oversight body -- the SENATE BANKING COMMITTEE.

You KNOW this for a FACT because th LAST time you brought this CRAP argument up I POINTED you -- for at least the SECOND time, to publicly available C-SPAN coverage of said DEMOCRATIC committee members defending the GSEs and claiming not only that "they were doing a fine job" but that there was "nothing wrong with them" -- in *2004* -- six months before the s*** started to hit the fan.

THEN those same Democrats turned around and RIPPED THE HEAD OFF of the OFHEO official who appeared before them claiming he was "Creating unnecessary consumer concern and doubt regarding the GSEs, and thus risking the loss of public faith in them".


YOU KNOW THIS, BOBN, or, if not, it is because of INTENTIONAL ignorance on your part.

So STFU ABOUT OFHEO. They TRIED to do their job, your PRECIOUS Democrats actively and willfully prevented them from doing anything.

About the only remaining thing the Bush Admin could have done is to put well-deserved bullets into their lying traitorous heads. And we both know that would have led to a great deal of clucking and nattering.


As a matter of fact, your precious Frank Raines is in the news again:

Franklin Raines to pay $24.7 million to settle Fannie Mae lawsuit

WASHINGTON — Former Fannie Mae chief Franklin Raines and two other top executives have agreed to a $31.4 million settlement with the government announced today over their roles in a 2004 accounting scandal.

Raines, former Fannie chief financial officer Timothy Howard and former controller Leanne Spencer were accused in a civil lawsuit in December 2006 with manipulating earnings over a six-year period at the company, the largest U.S. financer and guarantor of home mortgages.

...(snip)...


Also, from further down:


Raines' total compensation from 1998 through 2004 was $91.1 million, including some $52.6 million in bonuses, according to OFHEO.


So, for doing such a fine and wonderful job in almost single-handedly misleading the private finance community that it was possible to actually make money on badly considered loans, Raines gets to KEEP the rest of the 52 million after he pays back the 24. Ooooh, ah, the poor, poor man!! He might have to give up his yacht club membership and put his 3 million dollar yacht up down at the marina!! The SOB should be strung up by his balls --literally.

Oh, and, considering what happens to government officials who get bonuses for ruining a corporation, contrasting with AIG execs who stay and get the shaft, what happens to people working for the GSEs *now*, considering that they've just gotten bailed out to the tune of 200 BILLION dollars?

Oh, well, of course -- they get rewarded with bonuses, what else?

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are planning to shell out USD 210 million in bonuses for 2008 to over 7,600 employees

Man, I need a government job. You can destroy the entire economy, piss away over 200 billion dollars, and STILL get your merit bonuses!!


> Silly me. What *was* I thinking???!?!?!

Bobn, don't be silly. We know better. You don't think, as a matter of standard operating procedure. It's how you remain a libtard, and pushing for solutions which blatantly CAN'T work, like ADDING to the power of a government you have a clear grasp of the level of corruption of.

You can't CURB corruption by GIVING THEM MORE POWER.

Any more than you can bring a two-bit petty thug and tyrant to heel by having "talks" with them.

Further, if you thought AT ALL, you would stop trying to float the same BS arguments past us repeatedly. Once, maybe you think you can get away with it. Repeating an argument already blown out of the water once is typical insane libtard behavior, thinking that something that didn't work once might work if you keep trying the same stupid thing over and over again.

bobn said...

Bobn, you are a complete ASS.

Which is why I, at most, skim your responses to me.

There is NO WAY you remain IGNORANT of the fact that OFHEO BROUGHT the matter of GSE improprieties up with their appropriate oversight body -- the SENATE BANKING COMMITTEE.

OFHEO is part of the executive branch. Get used to it. They had the control and didn't use it - because Bush was on the "ownership society" bandwagon, along with the clowns in Congress.

CRA was done in 2004. In 2004, the biggest IBanks were granted a tripling of their leverage. As noted previously, the toxic mortgage markets went insane shortly thereafter. Sorry this doesn't agree with your Ayn Rand inspired myth of "businessman good, government bad" but that is how it is.

Carl said...

bobn:

I don't know what "CRA was done in 2004" means. As far as I know, there were no significant changes in the CRA law (which dates from 1977), or Agency regulations under the law, in 2004.

bobn said...

from here:

During the early 1990s, there were unsuccessful attempts to repeal CRA. However, the Clinton
Administration’s strong support for the statute; the Riegle-Neal Act of 1994,6 which allowed
interstate banking and branching and precipitated a series of major bank mergers; increased
advocacy by community-based organizations; and revisions to the regulations in 1995,7 ushered
in a period of intense activity under CRA. That period largely came to an end by 2001, as a new
Administration revised priorities, merger activity slowed down substantially, and the far larger
banks that emerged largely focused on their home towns and on national goals, rather than the
more local focus that smaller or sub-regional institutions had provided.8 In 2005 and 2007, bank
regulators issued new regulations that vastly reduced the number of banks evaluated for all three
of lending, services and investments in low- and moderate-income communities and established
a new “intermediate small bank test” that focused on lending and community development
activities for institutions with $250 million to $1 billion in assets.
And here:

In late 2004, the Bush administration announced plans to sharply weaken CRA regulations, pulling small and mid-sized banks out from under the law's toughest standards. Yet sub-prime lending continued, and even intensified -- at the very time when activity under CRA had slowed and the law had weakened...