Saturday, October 20, 2012

What to cut? Fannie and Freddy

Back during the New Deal, builders, real estate agents, bankers, insurance agents, and civic boosters of various stripes convinced the Roosevelt Administration that Great Depression 1.0 was caused because people weren't building enough new houses, and they were not building houses because there was a shortage of mortgage money.  And the federal government, with the power to print as much money as desired, ought to print up a bunch and put it into mortgages. 
  And so it happened.  Federal National Mortgage Something-or-Other, commonly known as Fannie Mae, was created.  Being an agency of the US government, the best credit rating on the planet, they could sell bonds for nearly as good a rate as Federal Treasury Bills.  They used this fountain of cheap money to purchase mortgages from savings and loans (remember them?) and ordinary banks.  The sellers could then use the cash to write more mortgages. 
   And what did Fannie Mae do with all those mortgages?  For many years they just cashed the mortgage checks and life went on.  Something in the '90s they invented a financial weapon of mass destruction, the mortgage backed security.  They proceeded to blow the global financial system to hell and back, and we are still living in the wreckage.  Great Depression 2.0 was caused by Fannie Mae, more than  anyone else.
  The destruction included Fannie itself, as Great Depression 2.0 threw everyone out of work, they stopped making their mortgage payments, and that cut off Fannie's air supply.  The US treasury had to step in and guarantee   Fannie's obligations.  This cost $140 billion of our tax money.  As bad as AIG.
  We ought to close down Fannie.  It isn't needed, and it has the power to do humungous damage.  It's still loosing money.  The financial world will be a better, safer, and cheaper place after we drive a stake thru Fannie's heart.  Revoke their charter, put 'em out of business.
   Obama hasn't said one word about Fannie.   But its a good bet that he would keep it going.
   Romney hasn't said much about Fannie either.  But I bet he would be OK with closing it down.                                         

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