As the markets melted down in the last couple of weeks, the voices started low but quickly grew into a loud chorus with an old tune: These problems are the fault of deregulation.

At least the tenor of much of the press coverage and many of the yakking heads recently was that our financial systems wouldn’t have sunk into this mire if only the government had been more involved.

Well, those of us who have a teensy bit more faith in the markets and who tend to be more skeptical of government’s abilities have a well-worn refrain of our own: Oh, puh-leeze.

To be sure, there’s plenty of blame to go around. Probably some wild parts of the financial system could be reined in by reasonable regulations. But to reflexively blame it all on deregulation and lack of government oversight is empty-minded, tiresome and simply wrong. The fact is the overseers in the government played a big part in the embarrassing undressing of America’s financial system.

Remember that junky subprime and Alt-A loans are at the root of much of today’s problems, and then consider the long and abiding role Congress has played in urging lenders to make those loans. The Community Reinvestment Act, passed more than 30 years ago, commanded lenders to make loans to poorer borrowers. Lenders complained that it was difficult to make and sell such loans. Congress cajoled the lenders for years, then pounced when it had its chance.

The chance came after Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac went through accounting scandals in the early part of this decade. Congress more or less let them off the hook, but in exchange, those government-sponsored enterprises essentially were instructed to buy a boatload more subprime and Alt-A loans. An op-ed in the Wall Street Journal last week pointed out that Rep. Barney Frank, who’s now chairman of the House Finance Committee, said in 2003 that Fannie and Freddie were central in making housing more affordable, “a mission that this Congress has given them in return for some of the arrangements which are of some benefit to them.”

Suddenly, Countrywide Financial, IndyMac Bancorp and lenders like them had a ready buyer for all the smelly loans they could manufacture. Subprime loans, which were 8 percent of all home mortgages in 2003, ballooned to more than 20 percent by 2006. Alan Greenspan, among others, called to rein in Freddie and Fannie, but the issue was ignored by Congress.

Of course, that same Congress is now blaming everyone but itself for the problems caused by the unchecked growth of subprime loans.

Actually, Fannie and Freddie are not the only examples of how government meddling or mishandling either helped cause or contributed to our problems. The Federal Reserve, for example, greased the skids by making money too easy to get during the years that subprime loans soared.

To be honest, the amazing meltdown of the last couple of weeks has many causes and accelerators, some we probably don’t know about yet. In the coming weeks and months, we’ll probably learn plenty about how greed and hubris played an important role. Uninformed and plain old dunderheaded decisions are bound to be exposed. And some problems likely were caused or turbocharged by wild corners of the market that may need to face up to some new regulations.

But in the media’s and Congress’ rush to blame “deregulation” and “unfettered market forces,” we’d do well to remember that this financial wreck is like a multicar pileup. And the government was behind more than one of the steering wheels.