Friday, February 18, 2011

A Shift in Washington's Attitude Toward Home Ownership?

-- Posted by Neil H. Buchanan

Early in the financial crisis, I wrote a series of FindLaw columns and Dorf on Law posts discussing and decrying the strong preference in the United States for people to own their own homes. (The most recent DoL post is here. That post includes links to my earlier writings on the subject.) The short version of my argument is that home ownership concentrates families' financial risk in entirely inappropriate (and often disastrous) ways, and that all of the supposed advantages of owning can be achieved in a world of renting.

Even as I argued that Americans' universal preference for home ownership was based on fundamental misunderstandings of the nature of owning versus renting, I acknowledged in nearly everything I wrote on the subject that changing people's attitudes about such a deeply-held ideal would be a nearly impossible task, best left to those (like tenured professors) whose job security should not be threatened by making unpopular proposals. I never imagined that any politicians -- and certainly not the hyper-cautious politicians in the Obama administration -- would push in this direction.

To my surprise, however, a report from Treasury and HUD was released earlier this week, in which the administration proposes to get the government out of the business of guaranteeing home mortgages (which it has long done, mostly through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac). The response has been surprisingly muted, given that one news article described the report's broad message as: "Better to help some people rent." Pretty radical stuff in DC.

Unfortunately, my initial sense that this was a refreshing case of boldness on the part of the administration was undermined by the news that the proposal is most strongly opposed by some of President Obama's most reliable backers, and supported mostly by his opponents. (" 'Gutting Fannie and Freddie is the most irresponsible housing proposal yet from this administration,' said Representative Dennis Cardoza, a Democrat from the Central Valley in California. 'How is Joe Six-Pack ever going to be able to afford a home?' ") As a broad political matter, therefore, this is merely more triangulation from the neo-Clintonites.

While I understand why liberal groups have generally supported home ownership initiatives, however, I think that they are ultimately wrong. (Meanwhile, the reasons that most conservatives oppose Fanny and Freddie are even more wrong.)

The major impetus behind this proposal is, of course, the cost of the Fannie/Freddie bailouts to the public Treasury. An editorial in yesterday's New York Times, for example, assessed the report's three alternative proposals to reduce or remove federal mortgage guarantees, focusing its analysis entirely (and, in the context of the Great Recession, appropriately) on how likely each proposal would be to lead to future financial crises and public bailouts. Notably, however, the Times's editors expressed concern that "moderate-income communities could still be left behind," leaving unchallenged the idea that "getting ahead" must mean increasing access to home ownership.

The Treasury-HUD report also suggested that it might be time to reassess the tax preference for mortgage interest, which at least opens up the broader set of policies (far beyond the mortgage guarantee giants) that artificially push people to own homes. This raises the question of what an owner/renter neutral world would look like, and what kind of legal regime (aka regulation!) would be required to make it work. (Actually, I think that we should adopt policies to affirmatively discourage individual home ownership, because of the problem of risk concentration. I will, however, leave that aside for now. One enormous step at a time.)

The conservatives who clamor for the end of Fannie and Freddie do so, I suspect, in the belief that a new world of non-guaranteed loans would leave "the free market" to decide who lives in a house and who lives in an apartment. My assertion that rental markets can work reasonably well, however, is based on having lived in rental housing that is well-managed and well-maintained. I know, from having rented as an upper-middle class professional in Manhattan and DC/Maryland, that it is possible to have corporate-owned housing that is not a nightmare. By contrast, I vividly recall my days as a graduate student in the Boston area, left to the tender mercies of a low-end rental market that left my permanently low-income neighbors living in apartments with frequent (and sometimes disgusting) interruptions in power, water, sewage, and so on.

The preference among liberal advocates for increased home ownership among the poor and lower-middle-class, therefore, is based on the bitter reality that landlords have every incentive to take advantage of their tenants. Among many other problems, the costs of moving make it more difficult for renters to move away from bad landlords (even assuming that better ones exist), making the market adjustment process imperfect, at best. Even higher-income people need to rely on access to courts and regulators to enforce recalcitrant landlords to fulfill their obligations. After being scarred by uncounted horrible experiences with renting, it is understandable that people would view home ownership as an escape, finally liberating them from having to deal with rapacious and unresponsive property owners.

This means that the new world of more widespread renting -- including, as it must, the renting of single-family homes, not just apartments in multi-unit buildings -- would have to be accompanied by careful regulations to protect renters (and, to be fair, honest landlords) from abuses by the other side of the rental relationship. "Getting the government out of housing" must not mean simply allowing existing contract laws to govern the rental market. It would have to involve a very deliberately chosen set of policies that would correct the severe market failures that are fundamental to the housing market, especially for lower-income people.

Even if we could create those rules -- and, given my increasingly deep skepticism about "behavioral" remedies as opposed to "structural" remedies, I am not saying that the result would be ideal -- an even more difficult question is what would happen during a transition from the current regime to the neutral regime. What to do about all of those people who bought their piece of the American Dream? What will happen to them? I will address that question in a future Dorf on Law post.

30 comments:

egarber said...

I wonder if maybe FF aren't needed anymore.

If the implosion taught us anything, it's that modern finance has created an array of liquidity vehicles for mortgage financing. One of the phony claims by conservatives somewhat ironically highlights this reality. Contrary to their conclusions, Fannie / Freddie did not cause the run up in toxics; most everything was underwritten by private institutions.

Obviously, the regulation was non-existent, but this dynamic seems to prove that unlike the era when FF came into being, the modern day provides a ready secondary market to play that role. And guarantees in theory could be privately insured as well, provided the credit default swap and other markets are effectively regulated.

Doug said...

@egarber - while the mortgages were underwritten by private lenders they were then quickly sold to others including a very large proportion to Freddy and Fannie. So from a economic perspective, Freddy and Fanny took the role of underwriters (private lenders didn't do a good job underwriting as they planned to sell off).

Doug said...

Don Coxe, a noted financial analyst, compared home ownership in the US and Canada - with and without mortgage interest tax credits - and found that the difference was less than 1% in home ownership rates (both 67.something% if I recall). I've rented apartments/condos in four countries as a professional and as a student and know the system can work alright (though not perfectly). Our current lease has a provision limiting rent increases so we don't need to worry about rates jacking up after our initial 2 years.

I understand the desire to have people who care enough about their homes to keep them in good repair and keep the neighborhood looking good; I would really like to change a few things in my current place but the landlord wouldn't pay for it (it wouldn't be a good investment from a numbers standpoint) and negotiating things like an additional air conditioner were a pain to do.

There was a proposal in Canada to make mortgage interest deductible and I argued against it to everybody I met with the following arguments: 1) Apartment dwellers are generally poorer and already loose out relatively as they don't get a primary home capital gains tax deduction - a mortgage interest deduction would take taxes collected by rich and poor alike and give most of the money to the rich, 2) The deduction proposal should be called the bank profit enhancement proposal - the proposal provides an incentive for people to hold more debt (secured by property) with a decent share of the benefits accruing to large banks.

The rental market won't ever be perfect and the transaction costs in the landlord-tenant relationship are real and can be abusive. Owning also concentrates risk and (given huge transaction fees) makes relocating more difficult. I think we are best served when government (and private individuals contracting and/or insuring) realizes neither are perfect and takes measures to limit the imperfections of both.

Doug said...

Oh, and to get rid of the tax, phase it out by capping it's value and having a phase-out period where mortgage interest becomes less and less deductible over a lengthly period of time (e.g. 15 years) so as not to squeeze current homeowners too much.

egarber said...

Hi Doug,

To clarify what I was saying, it's not the mortgages themselves that were directly underwritten; it was the securities that were resold on the secondary markets. And during the run-up, private institutions were securitizing the toxic forms, while Wall Street investors and firms waited to buy them in the secondary markets. FF purchased some later, but by then, things were about to crater. That's why private banks needed TARP: all that garbage was sitting on their books.

So my point is that there seems to be a heavy private position in place to handle three areas dominated by FF over the years: 1) aggregating mortgages into securities, 2) selling them in secondary markets, and 3) insuring (guaranteeing) them.

Again, none of it can work without adequate regulation. But as far as liquidity goes -- funds always available for mortgages -- today is a very different time relative to when FF came into existence. There's a secondary market available for everything today -- credit card debt, auto loans, you name it.

Paul Scott said...

Self-interest fully revealed (I own a home), if there is going to be a change in the mortgage interest deduction, it should be prospective only.

The purpose of eliminating it is to dis-incentive home purchase, not just to dramatically increase the tax burden of most of the middle class. You cannot produce that incentive for people who already own a house (though I suppose for many people it might force a sale of a house or foreclosures, thereby reducing total home ownership).

Doug said...

Hmm, my understanding was that FF were huge - with something like 2/3 of the market for buying mortgage securities (including subprimes). I would agree that the market would have provided most of this on its own but FF did provide a huge amount of the credit and did not adequately ensure that the loans were valid and did not adequately manage risk.

Neil H. Buchanan said...

A few notes:

(1) I agree with Doug's second and third comments.

(2) The issue that egarber is highlighting is the timing question. Even though (as Doug points out) Frannie ended up with tons of bad loans on its books, it was too late to the game to be the cause of the meltdown. It just ended up holding the (very heavy, yet worthless) bag.

(3) Paul Scott (and Doug's second comment) anticipate my upcoming post on the transition. There's no reason to penalize current homeowners for having responded appropriately to both deliberate policy incentives and social pressures to own one's own home.

Paul Scott said...

I look forward to reading it. It is a very complicated process. In particular I look forward to reading how you resolve the balance on prospective policy change for current owners now being heavily financially incentivized to not move, or if instead the process becomes some form of grandfathering on the program tied to the person's status as "homeowner", not the person's status as "owner of a particular home."

I have not fully thought this out myself, other than to note the transition is not going to be simple (or, if it is, it is not going to be fair and will have unintended consequences).

JP Andreas, Pres. A.C.L.P. said...

Very interesting discussion, and I quite agree with Paul Scott's "unintended consequences" comment, (an always immutable law). But let's be frank.

Contrary to the opinions of some that we just need "more regulation" I would argue that it was "government regulation" and policies favoring giving home mortgages to those who couldn't afford it, (e.g., the 1993 "Community Reinvestment Act") that allowed this "crisis" to develop in the first place.

Egarber: While Tarp, (and HAMP, and other government "programs") have, after the fact, undoubtedly kept many individuals and large institutions from financial ruin, it has also created a perverse incentive, (the so called "moral hazard"), by saying to irresponsible parties-- whether individuals who never could afford a home in the first place or banks and mortgage brokers who were eager to provide "no doc" and no interest "teaser rate" mortgages to them-- the following: "No matter how culpable you are or how you got into this mess we are going to bail you out." It seems to me this is the biggest "unintended consequence" of the governmental regulation and policies which caused this mess (and therefore a quite ironic and shortsighted basis on which to usher in even MORE government regulation).

Indeed, a strong argument can be made that the reason we had the housing meltdown was the 1993 "Community Reinvestment Act" and "community" and political "activism" of such groups like Acorn who agitated and picketed Banks and other financial institutions for "unfair and discriminatory" policies for refusing to make housing loans to minorities and others who couldn't afford them.

Thus, while I agree with the overall premise of this post, that renting is often a very dignified (and financially sound) housing solution, I assert it would behoove us to carefully consider the effect of such governmental policies before we enact complex regulatory reform that might have other, now unknown, "unintended consequences." Rather, any such "reform" must be done via market forces so as to not again fall into some of the same traps and leave taxpayers holding the bag.

Accordingly, rather than a complex national regulatory scheme or phasing out the home ownership interest tax deduction, perhaps a "rent rebate" check such as some states already offer, (e.g., Vermont), would be in order.

Further, though I suspect the consensus is more in the way of more radical (and national) "legal reform" and I've certainly dealt with my share of unreasonable landlords in my time, for the most part there are already fair rental laws on most state's books, (although if Obamacare is upheld that could certainly be a basis for making the "everything including renting effects interstate commerce" argument so as to legally pass a "national" rental act of some kind).

Rather than such radical action how about a much simpler legislative solution that wouldn't unnecessarily impose upon the States and re-raise due process/Commerce Clause issues?

Simply pass a law unquestionably within the purview of Congress' authority that requires banks to service their own loans. This would insure lending decisions are made locally where determinations on a person's ability to repay are more likely to be accurate and which forces lenders to more carefully underwrite all loans. Response?

egarber said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
egarber said...

Hi JP, a few things:


I think it’s a strawman argument to say those of us who are pro-regulation are merely pushing for volume. The real point is that the framework was completely outdated; it was designed for a world without all this new innovation. Derivatives of the flavor sitting at the center of the recent mess are a relatively new creation. Credit default swaps moved from the relative safety of municipal default risk into the realm of toxic mortgage securities. A whole sea change was underway.

But rather than sensibly update our regulatory framework to account for all this – limiting the new tools to beneficial uses (ensuring liquidity, etc.) -- we left the whole area as an untamed Wild West.

So in the end, we have too much government involvement now (nationalized banks), because we had too little of the right kind before.

As for the CRA, it simply doesn’t fly to hold it accountable for the financial implosion. For one, almost none of the underwriters who dealt in toxic securities were even subject to the law. And for any bank that is covered, there are safeguards in place to prevent loan extensions to high-risk buyers. There is nothing in the law that requires banks to take on unreasonable risk.

So to me, efforts to pin the trouble on the CRA are really just camouflage for the core driver here: a private speculative frenzy.

JP Andreas, Pres. A.C.L.P. said...

Egarber: I am still not sold on the cause of the meltdown; undoubtedly many forces had an impact, including the unregulated, (some would say fraudulent) "repackaging" of CDO's as AAA grade investments. And I certainly agree with the idea of less and reasonable regulation as opposed to nationalization, (if those are the only two choices). But even if you are right on the cause not being so much a result of government policies you STILL create a perverse incentive if you bail them out (particularly re: the multi-national banks). If they are indeed responsible for swindling millions of people with fraudulent mortgages and "investments" alike why not let them be sued and thereby discourage others from the same "wild west" tactics? This seems to me a valid third way without putting the taxpayer on the hook for billions of dollars and, as you say, "nationalizing" banks, (though it appears we may have dodged a bullet there). jp

egarber said...

JP, I understand the concern about perverse incentive and moral hazard. But that's why regulations need to be strong in the first place, so we can prevent scenarios where there are only bad choices.

I mean, saving a person with cancer who has smoked his whole life arguably creates a perverse incentive, because some people might continue smoking, knowing a medical response awaits. But even though prevention -- a push for healthier living -- failed in this hypothetical, few people would advocate letting the patient die. In the case with the banks, the entire economy is the patient; credit is the lifeblood of the overall system. Without the bailouts, we'd be sitting in a deflationary spiral and a much, much worse downturn. That would of course affect everybody in a major way, not just bank CEO's and hedge fund managers. So we had no choice but to prop up the banks, in order to save the patient.

Doug said...

@JP - Some comments on your "analysis" (why do you put random words in "quotes"?)

--> 'I would argue that it was "government regulation" and policies ... that allowed this "crisis" to develop in the first place.'

Based on what evidence? The issue was that banks didn't have to hold their own mortgages (they could sell them off), the regulators didn't properly examine mortgage lending practices, and rating agencies and other risk managers used faulty assumptions (housing prices will never decline). More structural regulatory intervention (e.g. liability for rating agencies, requirement to keep a portion of originated mortgages on the books) and oversight (e.g. examining some loan files when regulators visit banks, providing greater oversight of complex products) would have helped. Less regulation would have only made the crisis come faster (though too little regulation and the industry - based on trust - would fail).

--> 'While ... government "programs") have, after the fact, undoubtedly kept many ... from financial ruin, it has also created a perverse incentive,'

Only if the programs continue or could be expected in the future. From what I understand they only deal with past problems; since people didn't know about the programs before they were created and they aren't expected in the future incentives aren't altered. I don't think anybody buying a house now with a 'teaser rate' or 'zero-down' thinks the government will bail them out (if they can get such a mortgage at all).

--> '"unintended consequence" of the governmental regulation ... caused this mess (and therefore [we shouldn't] usher in even MORE government regulation). '

In fact, there wasn't enough regulatory oversight and regulatory barriers. As a consequence there was a crisis. So we increase regulation.

--> 'Accordingly, rather than a complex national regulatory scheme or phasing out the home ownership interest tax deduction, perhaps a "rent rebate" check such as some states already offer, (e.g., Vermont), would be in order.'

What "complex national regulatory scheme"? If you mean banking regulation we can't get out of that without getting rid of Banks. Your idea to have government interfere even more in housing doesn't seem to make sense to me - why would the government want to encourage everybody to spend more than they normally would on housing (that would be the intended impact of the policy)? I can see why we would encourage education spending for example but not housing.

I agree with you that balanced regulations that do enough to protect both tenants and landlords along with a fair, speedy, cheap dispute resolution process (better government regulation) is appropriate (with or without changing the tax code). I'll leave aside the comment about national rental standards (though I think this would be a bridge too far for the commerce clause).

I find it somewhat interesting that after railing against more government regulation of banking your proposed solution - forcing banks to keep their loans* - is a solution of more regulation.

* You said banks should be forced to service which is technically different. Most of the banks that sold off the loans actually only sold off the risk of non-payment; the banks serviced the loans in most cases - that is they collected the payments and remitted them to the people who bought the loans (minus a small fee).

Doug said...

@JP - It does clarify your position and it was a most interesting post to read.

In terms of the sell loans comment I was responding to this sentence you wrote:

Simply pass a law unquestionably within the purview of Congress' authority that requires banks to service their own loans.

The problem with that sentence is that most of the banks that sold their loans off continued to service those sold off loans (their loans - because they originated them and took the initial credit risk until they sold them). The wholesale selling of the loans (including the servicing rights) generally only happened after the collapse when banks went under (after all servicing rights are a lucrative stream of revenue that carries little risk that banks wanted to keep).

Doug said...

My last post was in response to JPs post that got emailed to me and filtered three separate times....

JP Andreas, Pres. A.C.L.P. said...

Doug,

Thanks for your kind comments, (and clarification on banking policy). I now understand your point about the "servicing" of loans as opposed to actually selling them off. Please disregard this part of my lengthy last post, (which, as anyone can see, actually chronologically pre-dated your kind comments that my post was "interesting."

As probably one of the few conservatives on here, that means a lot to me.

However, because I should hope we all consider censorship wrong, do you think you could talk to your colleagues and get whoever is deleting my replies to stop? Indeed, after all the blather about 'diversity' in other posts, (Supermajority requirements for Quorum post) such is rank hipocrisy. Moreover, I would appreciate it. jp

JP Andreas, Pres. A.C.L.P. said...

I wish my replies would stop being censored. FOURTH TIME'S THE CHARM?

I can see I've stirred up a hornet's nest here! First of all, the reason I use quotes around "random" words is because, it's not in fact "random" but rather indicates that the use of the word is a characterization I don't, in fact, agree with. I will explain the following since I am the "new kid on the block," (and as I perceive the accusation of inconsistency is one worthy of reply).

Sometimes, in my charitable good nature, (lol!) I go out of my way to offer up a potential compromise to a situation. Perhaps its my upbringing to do so, perhaps I am just positing an alternate position to get the benefit of others' thoughts, (which I have certainly gotten here!) and sometimes I may do so to play a bit of the provocateur, (and sometimes a combination of all three!) Of course, strictly speaking, ALL of us have inconsistencies, (darn people, why do they have to be so blasted independent and complex in their motives and behavior?! lol). I would argue that that's one of the things that make people interesting and worth getting to know, but that's just me.

Being a human myself, I of course am no different. Therefore, and saliently here, when it comes to my comment about rental rebates, perhaps you are right and I should be more "consistent." (In that case, no rebates, screw the little people! Would you rather that be my point of view?) In short, my point was not meant to be of my overall view, (which does favor less regulation), but rather one of degree; to wit, IF we are going to go regulation crazy to promote renting instead of home ownership-- an implied premise I inferred in the original post and some of the subsequent comments, i.e. referencing the "difficult transition" and others, perhaps I wrongly inferred but that was my take on it-- then why not look at other less invasive forms of "regulation" to promote that policy objective? In short, if we are going to regulate to encourage renting, (the ostensibly desired outcome), why not utilize policies that have already been tried elsewhere?
In my view, it was no less obnoxious than lots of policy preferences we promote through the tax code every day,(earned income credit, mortgage interest deduction, charitable giving, etc. etc.), while at the same time pointing out the folly and risks in doing so.

Likewise, I never said I actually thought we SHOULD have a comprehensive national "rental code"; that was only my speculation about where I thought an extraordinarily broad interpretation of the commerce clause such as would uphold Obamacare's individual mandate could inevitably lead, (I know, shame me for being slightly off topic but at the time it made sense to me, with apropos reasoning).

For the record, I am not a Ron Paul sort who believes in having NO government regulation for ANYTHING, (that would be deadly and foolhardy, especially when it comes to Airline maintenance and Rx drugs); again, it was more of a point of comparison, and in truth, like many things in life and law, is rather a question of degree.

Thus, although I agree my comment about forcing banks to retain on their own books the mortgages they have made to insure more careful underwriting and reduce defaults is, strictly speaking, contradictory, it again is a matter of the lesser of two evils vis a vis the DEGREE to which we regulate.

Your point Doug re: knowledge of future regulation, while assuming that such regulation can never be foreknown based on past experience, is well taken.

I however disagree with your statement that banks don't really "sell" their mortgages on the open market but only the "risk of nonpayment," as a quick google and/or my own experience, (as well as thousands of other Americans) shows they do. In fact, it is the basis on which the whole CDO and real estate derivatives market is built.

I hope that helps clarify my position. jp

Doug said...

@JP - I'd love to get it to stop as your responses have been interesting and have added to the debate (I've been able to read your responses in email) but alas I don't have such powers. I think it is an automatic thing from Google based on key words - I'm thinking your comment on not being a Ron Paul type contained an R followed by a small x was what trigged the system.

If Mr. Dorf or Mr. Buchanan could post the original comments or add JP to a safe list it would be helpful.

J said...

THANK YOU!!! I will have to correct my assertions of censorship if that is the case. jp

Doug said...

Naa, censorship is censorship even if it is automated. If you don't think so then come live here in China for a while and try to browse any website (including this one) without a VPN.

J said...

Doug: China, huh? Point well taken!

Egarber: I never did really reply to your point about saving the "patient." I guess you analysis turns on whether you think a relatively unfettered banking system or our whole system of government is the patient. Of course, you would be correct if one believed that allowing the free market to regulate itself by allowing those who had behaved recklessly to bear the consequences, (both economic and potentially legal), for their actions. I just happen not to be convinced of the chicken little argument, ("the sky is falling"). Of course, politically, and in fairness, I was not convinced the Bush Admistration did us any favors by conceiving the TARP bailout plan in the first place, and we shall never know the consequences if the market had been allowed to correct itself and all those foreign investors holding CDO's had been forced to sue Merrill Lynch, the rating agencies and others who had a hand in their being packaged and sold as the greatest thing since sliced bread. But I do appreciate your taking the time to try and enlighten me.

Off topic question: Is anyone going to address the President's self-aggrandizing decree of the "unconstitutionality" of the DOMA? I really need to get back to my own blog anyway, (though I will still be monitoring things here).

J said...

TYPO CORRECTION: "Of course, you would be correct if one believed that allowing the free market to regulate itself by allowing those who had behaved recklessly to bear the consequences, (both economic and potentially legal), for their actions" SHOULD HAVE READ:

Of course, you would be correct if one believed that allowing the free market to regulate itself by allowing those who had behaved recklessly to bear the consequences, (both economic and potentially legal), for their actions was the only way to avoid the financial death spiral you describe."

Sorry for any confusion folks. jp

J said...

Doug and other fair minded people:

I am glad you made the point you have about censorship. Apparently it is a view not shared by all, because I HAVE JUST FOUND THAT MY ENTIRE BLOG AND PERSONAL GMAIL ACCOUNT HAS BEEN 'TERMINATED' WITH NO WARNING OR REASON GIVEN. As I violated no Terms of Service I am aware of and have never had any problems before my only reasonable conclusion is that such action was taken in response to a complaint by Mr. Dorf or someone on this site. My entire response to google follows, but IF YOU REALLY MEAN WHAT YOU SAY OR SUCH SQUASHING OF LEGITIMATE EXPRESSION OF OPINION BOTHERS YOU PLEASE EMAIL GOOGLE AND DEMAND THAT MY ACCOUNTS ARE RESTORED. THANKS FOR THE SUPPORT OF ALL THOSE, REGARDLESS OF POLITICAL PURSUASION, WHO CARE ABOUT FREEDOM AND REALIZE IT COULD BE YOU NEXT. Thanks. jp

Text of my complaint to Google a few minutes ago:

"Wow, you guys are really something else. I didn't want to believe that the stories I had heard of censorship were really true of the leftists at google, but now I am living proof! I was doing nothing that I was aware of that was against the TOS. I had merely posted publicly some criticism of censorship at another blog I frequent. But if this is the way you treat serious contributors to our nation's national debate, and particularly if I am forced to restart a new blog on Word Press, I AND MY ORGANIZATION WILL I DEDICATE THE REST OF MY DAYS to warning people of the dangers of Google's increasing influence in all of society, you can COUNT ON THAT!"

Michael C. Dorf said...

J,

Your last comment was just called to my attention. As the Administrator of this blog, I have the sole power to delete comments--a power I never exercise in response to people disagreeing with me or other bloggers but reserve for spam comments from people advertising unrelated products and services, usually in other languages. I certainly did not contact Google about you.

Good luck in getting your account restored. Thanks for reading and commenting here.

JP Andreas, Pres. A.C.L.P. said...

Hmmmm. Curious indeed. Wish I could figure out what happened, but at least I now have access to my accounts again. Thanks (again!) for your welcome and kind words of reassurance as to your deletion policies. jp

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