Commentary: Florida a poster child for America's fiscal disintegration

It wasn't surprising that President Barack Obama came to Florida to push his economic stimulus package, because no place in the United States has fallen so hard, so fast.

And when the mega-recession finally ends, Florida will be one of the last places in the country to turn itself around. That's because other states have actual industry, while our employment base depends fatally on double-digit population growth and, to a lesser extent, tourism.

Everything was going gang-busters when a thousand people a day were moving here, but now the stampede is over, and the jig's up. Without fresh meat for the housing market, Florida basically hasn't got an economy.

Developers have controlled state and county governments for so long that no Plan B exists. Lost and clueless, lawmakers desperately hack away at public budgets while clinging to the hope that boom times will return.

For good reason, Florida has become the poster child for America's fiscal disintegration. We stand at the top of the leaderboard in rising unemployment, foreclosures and, of course, mortgage fraud.

Where else could a man step out of prison and straight into a job peddling adjustable-rate home loans to buyers with virtually no credit?

As The Miami Herald has documented, more than 10,000 convicted felons were welcomed into the mortgage business under the unwatchful eye of the state's Office of Financial Regulation. Believe it or not, many of those felons went on to perpetrate dishonest deeds and victimize gullible citizens.

The banks grabbed their piece of the action, too. Every major institution now standing in line for a taxpayer handout was an eager player in Florida's real-estate frenzy, throwing money at just about anybody who asked for a loan. If you had a pulse and a checking account, you could find a mortgage.

To read the complete column, visit www.miamiherald.com.