The FCIC's report begins with a tedious, disorganized rambling, with much unnecessary material, about the Commission's Mission and Background, Intentions of the Report, Impact of the Crisis, the Commission's actions, Limitations of Commission's Charter, what is in the Report, thank yous, and an unbelievably garbled set of pseudo-conclusions, without the headings, and without structure.
For example, the Commission carries on about what it wasn't asked to do - referencing TARP, the Transportation Safety Board, etc. It would have been sufficient to say "Congress did not ask the Commission to offer policy recommendations."
The crisis was caused, as has always been the case, by persons taking unreasonable, even illegal, risks in a quest for quick wealth. The impetus to pursue that quest arose from the Federal Reserve's easy money policy, not with standing the FCIC's protests to the contrary. They were allowed to take those risks, and allowed to infringe on the law, by recent administrations and by the US congress, who dismantled or thwarted prior regulations and their enforcement, and failed to adapt and enforce new regulations appropriate to new financial chicanery. The failures of administrations and congress were a consequence, in some cases, of pursuit of misguided ideologies, and, in others, simply the pursuit of office.
That is what the Commission should have concluded, and perhaps did, more or less, but you don't need 500 plus pages to do the job.
A English teacher from back in the day when we taught Latin and Greek in high school would give the report a D minus for composition. Well, we probably don't deserve any better.
What the Commission should have added, but didn't, is that it is not productive to fault those who took unreasonable or even illegal risks in their quest for wealth. They have made their character clear for millenia. They make no oath to behave otherwise. It is well established moral latin that we are obliged to take that character into account in dealing with them. Which we do by choosing representatives and executives, who do take an oath of office, to develop and enforce appropriate laws. It is our representatives and executives who failed us; who violated their oath of office. Of course, we put them in office. Nevertheless, the Commission wails about failure of corporate governance. Really.
There are so many faults with the report that it is hard to know where to begin.
For example, the Commission implied that monetary policy was not a cause. They said "Low interest rates and widely available capital were prerequisites for the creation of a credit bubble, and created increased risks, but did not need to cause a crisis." But, they failed to explore the connection between low interest rates and the desire for investors to find safe substitutes for US Treasuries. Wall Street came up with the supposedly safe substitutes, but they wouldn't have done that without a market. There is some discussion of the impact of low interest rates in one of the dissents, but it reflects poorly on the Commission as a whole that the subject wasn't thoroughly discussed in the body of the report.
Not that there was much thorough discussion of anything. Someone characterized the Report as a "clip job" and they are not entirely wrong.
As another fault, the Commission concludes that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac "contributed to the crisis, but were not a primary cause," and that "they followed rather than led Wall Street." So, it was Wall Street's fault? What the Commission didn't pursue is that the ultimate cost to the taxpayer for Fannie and Freddie's behavior will run into the hundreds of billions - look it up - dwarfing the net taxpayer bailouts of everyone else.
The Report is more a smokescreen than a whitewash, but despite its many faults, the Report provides a collection of material that, with substantial additional research, analysis and most of all organization, yields an understanding of who did what to whom and why. If you really want to grasp the material, download the PDF, use Acrobat Full Version to break it into manageable pieces, and to convert them into word. Use the web site to follow up on the footnotes.
In the end, when we clear our way through the smoke, we find Congress at the root of the problem. And they still are - read the just released "Reforming America's Housing Finance Market." Then call your Senator.