Who Really Made the S&L Mess?

Who Really Made the S&L Mess?

During the mid-to-late-1980s much of the American Southwest came to resemble the closing scenes of The Last Picture Show, with the prairie winds blowing dry leaves and tumbleweeds past the filmtown’s dilapidated stores and shuttered movie house. Along a fault line running roughly from Tulsa to Dallas and Houston, the decay spread east, west, and south as far as Louisiana, Arizona, and Colorado. Throughout the region, once-busy oil rigs lay rusting, empty “see-through” office buildings stippled big-city downtowns, tawdry malls and unsold condos flaked and peeled along the interstates and feeder roads. Spawned by the late seventies’ oil boom and the speculative frenzies that followed, the derelict structures are the visible legacies of the savings and loan (S&L) “mess.” Roughly half the $150 billion plus in failed assets (aka “loans”) now in the Resolution Trust Corporation’s hands are in Texas and Oklahoma alone.

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Duggan | University of California Press Gardels