Opinion

Fannie and Freddie are at it again

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Richard Olivastro
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      Richard Olivastro

      Richard Olivastro is president of Olivastro Communications, a professional member of the National Speakers Association and founder of Citizens For Change. He can be reached at Rich@Olivastro.NET or 877.RichSpeaks.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are dating again. And word has it they’re seeing way too much of each other.

Because their Congressional “parents” cannot be totally unaware of what Fannie and Freddie have been up to, individual incumbents in both chambers are either consciously avoiding their personal oversight responsibility—to provide adult supervision—or, may actually condone the various schemes carried out by the two government-controlled mortgage finance companies.

Here’s the skinny on their latest scheme.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will “buy back troubled loans contained in securities they (previously) sold to investors.”

Loans are deemed troubled when “borrowers have missed payments over at least four months.” Currently, those troubled loans approach a staggering $200 billion. More will surely come.

Setting aside the economic or political wisdom of the scheme—if you’re wondering, it is stupid—as it relates to all Americans, there are some people who definitely like how Fannie and Freddie have been behaving.

Who, you ask?

Big-time investors, that’s who. Many of them contribute big-time to politicians.

At this point, you may be wondering what Fannie and Freddie—always hand-in-hand and staying out late—have done before? This new loan buy-back recipe was cooked up by Fannie and Freddie operatives in order to provide themselves a menu of options.

It’s on top of their original scheme that “guaranteed” mortgage securities they sold to investors? There’s more:

The original guarantee program was, and is, a good deal for investors. It was purposely designed by the two government-controlled, taxpayer-funded agencies to attract investors who, by participating, could avoid or limit their risk of financial loss on mortgage security-type investments.

But, from the outset, Fannie and Freddie’s investment guarantee scheme was a bad deal for all U.S. taxpayers.

Ultimately, Fannie and Freddie’s operating behavior was a major cause of the domestic housing bubble. When the bubble burst, Fannie and Freddie “required $111 billion in federal aid to stay afloat,” but the damage was done. In their wake, Fannie and Freddie dramatically depressed housing values nationwide, put millions of borrowers “under water” and sent the general U.S. economy in a tailspin. In many ways, Fannie and Freddie’s inappropriate behavior opened the door to other political bailouts and federal encroachments that continue to this day.

Back to scheme two, Fannie and Freddie state their reason for buying back the $200 billion in delinquent loans is that it “would cost less than making” the guarantee payments to the investors who bought securities from them. Of course, buying back the troubled loans, or elements of the packaged mortgage securities, from investors clearly places the risk of further housing devaluation and payments on the back of all taxpayers.

This begs the question and deserves a shout-out: ‘Why did politicians permit Fannie and Freddie to buffer private investors from risk?’

After all, isn’t an investment a “private contribution of assets, put at risk of loss, for a potential return of private reward”? Apparently, politicians and appointed bureaucrats may have their own dictionary. One can suppose that in such a political dictionary definitions may have the words rearranged.

Perhaps, investment is defined as a “private contribution of assets to a politician, put at private risk only if he loses, for a government-guaranteed return of private rewards.”

Beyond all of this is a political irony.

If taxpayer-funded payouts were to be used at all, congressional “parents” should have grounded Fannie, Freddie and their schemes. Instead, while not a panacea, Congress could have funded interim assistance mortgage catch-up loans, added to principle, so ordinary Americans behind in payments could make their monthly mortgage payments.