"Beat the rookie with the Veteran"

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Two takes on the Fan/Fred mortgage bailout...

Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin write (entire op-ed here):

The bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is another outrageous, but sadly necessary, step for these two institutions. Given the long-term mismanagement and flawed structure of these two companies, this was the only short-term alternative for ensuring that hard-working Americans have access to affordable mortgages during this difficult economic period.

We are strong advocates for the permanent reform of Fannie and Freddie. For years, Congress failed to act and it is deeply troubling that what we are now seeing is an exercise in crisis management rather than sound planning, and at great cost to taxpayers.

House Democratic Chairman of Finance Barney Frank has repeatedly defended reform of Fan and Fred (full WSJ editorial here):

Fannie Mae's Patron Saint

September 9, 2008

Taxpayers are now on the hook for as much as $200 billion to rescue Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and if you want to know why, look no further than the rapid response to this bailout from House baron Barney Frank. Asked about Treasury's modest bailout condition that the companies reduce the size of their high-risk mortgage-backed securities (MBS) portfolios starting in 2010, Mr. Frank was quoted on Monday as saying, "Good luck on that," and that it would never happen.

There you have the Fannie Mae problem in profile. Mr. Frank wants you to pick up the tab for its failures, while he still vows to block a reform that might prevent the same disaster from happening again.

At least the Massachusetts Democrat is consistent. His record is close to perfect as a stalwart opponent of reforming the two companies, going back more than a decade. The first concerted push to rein in Fan and Fred in Congress came as far back as 1992, and Mr. Frank was right there, standing athwart. But things really picked up this decade, and Barney was there at every turn. Let's roll the audiotape:

In 2000, then-Rep. Richard Baker proposed a bill to reform Fannie and Freddie's oversight. Mr. Frank dismissed the idea, saying concerns about the two were "overblown" and that there was "no federal liability there whatsoever."

Two years later, Mr. Frank was at it again. "I do not regard Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as problems," he said in response to another reform push. And then: "I regard them as great assets." Great or not, we'll give Mr. Frank this: Their assets are now Uncle Sam's assets, even if those come along with $5.4 trillion in debt and other liabilities.

Again in June 2003, the favorite of the Beltway press corps assured the public that "there is no federal guarantee" of Fan and Fred obligations.

A month later, Freddie Mac's multibillion-dollar accounting scandal broke into the open. But Mr. Frank was sanguine. "I do not think we are facing any kind of a crisis," he said at the time.

Three months later he repeated the claim that Fannie and Freddie posed no "threat to the Treasury." Even suggesting that heresy, he added, could become "a self-fulfilling prophecy."

In April 2004, Fannie announced a multibillion-dollar financial "misstatement" of its own. Mr. Frank was back for the defense. Fannie and Freddie posed no risk to taxpayers, he said, adding that "I think Wall Street will get over it" if the two collapsed. Yes, they're certainly "over it" on the Street now that Uncle Sam is guaranteeing their Fannie paper, and even Fannie's subordinated debt.

By early 2007, Mr. Frank was in charge of the House Financial Services Committee, arguing that he had long favored some kind of reform. "What blocked it [reform] last year," Mr. Frank said then, "was the insistence of some economic conservative fundamentalists in the Bush Administration who, to be honest, don't think there should be a Fannie Mae or a Freddie Mac." What really blocked it was Mr. Frank's insistence that any reform be watered down and not include any reduction in their MBS holdings.

In the very least, we need some check on the Democratic Congress in the White House come January. These cozy deals are running rampant, and one party government will help them blossom and balloon...

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