Fannie, Freddie, and the Pain Caucus
The members of the Pain Caucus see things differently when they will be the ones blamed for the pain (which tells us something about how all those calls for deficit reduction from the GOP are likely to turn out). House Republicans, who now have responsibility for the oversight of Fannie and Freddie, have decided that dismantling Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac isn't so urgent after all:
Suddenly, some members of the GOP realize they actually will be part of the government, by Richard Green: Alan Zibel writes in the Wall Street Journal:Earlier this year, leading House Republicans proposed to privatize mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac or place them in receivership starting in two years.
Now, as Republicans prepare to assume control of the House next week, they aren't in as big a rush, cautioning that withdrawing government support in the housing market should be gradual.
"We recognize that some things can be done overnight and other things can't be," said Rep. Scott Garrett (R., N.J.), incoming chairman of the House Financial Services subcommittee, which oversees Fannie and Freddie. "You have to recognize what the impact would be on the fragile housing market as it stands right now."
I actually don't think the mortgage market will ever be truly a private sector enterprise. Suppose Fannie and Freddie were to go away: the most likely entities to step into the residential finance market would be banks. Would this be privatization? Not really. Banks receive explicit guarantees (FDIC) and, as we know from recent events, implicit guarantees as well (TARP was nothing if not the execution of an implicit Federal guarantee).
The conservative complaint about Fannie and Freddie is that they privatized profit while socializing risk. This is doubtless true. I just don't see how it is any less true for banks.
Posted by Mark Thoma on Wednesday, December 29, 2010 at 10:33 AM in Economics, Housing |
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