Barney Frank is expected to announce later today that he will not seek reelection.
The famous liberal Massachusetts representative, who is now the ranking Democrat on the House Financial Services committee, was first elected to the House in 1980. Perhaps the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill will be his most significant legacy.
Recently Frank has become one of the scapegoats for the financial crisis among conservatives. Jeff Jacoby’s 2008 article blaming Frank for the role that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac played in the crash is a classic of the genre. More recently and comprehensively, Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner portrayed Frank as a key player in the inflation and crash of the housing bubble in their book Reckless Endangerment, which has quickly become a favorite among conservatives.
Whether or not Frank was partly responsible for the financial crisis of the fall of ’08, it does seem clear that he was as guilty as any elected official in driving the GSEs to engage in risky and unsustainable lending during the run-up of the housing market. Furthermore, the financial regulation bill that bears his name is rightly the target of criticisms that it will generate more crony capitalism and instability.