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Morning Bell: Toward Orderly Withdrawal
Posted By Conn Carroll On April 28, 2008 @ 9:26 am In Economics | Comments Disabled
Losses are mounting. The situation shows no sign of getting better. It’s clear that U.S. government intervention has made the problem only worse. The economy has been directly affected and Americans exposed to trillions in new debt risk. Leaders now talk of redoubling government efforts. It’s time for a change in course … in federal housing policy.
In the second half of 2007, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — the two government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) created to help Americans afford homes — recorded losses totaling about $9 billion . The National Association of Home Builders predicts prices and housing starts likely will drop  through 2008.
The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) increased its portfolio of no-down-payment loans from 2 percent to 37 percent between 2000 and 2007. These loans default at almost three times the rate of other loans.  Freddie and Fannie either guaranteed, or hold themselves, mortgage-backed securities totaling $5.2 trillion. 
The housing stimulus bill favored in Congress would increase Freddie and Fannie’s exposure to risk  by raising the cap and the size of loans they can buy. U.S. taxpayers can’t afford this further involvement in the housing debacle. We need a new course.
First, Congress must hold the line on existing federal interference with the market. Fannie and Freddie were involved in about 76 percent of all new home loans last year , and that figure may top 80 percent this year.
The FHA bailout plan favored in Congress will undermine already successful voluntary efforts  by the private sector and non-profit groups. The plan ought to be rejected or at least limited to protect taxpayers as much as possible. 
Also, any new housing package should not increase the cap on the size of mortgages Fannie and Freddie can buy. The government should reduce its role in the mortgage market instead of expanding it and crowding out private companies. In the long term, the federal government should look to reduce the co-monopoly position Fannie and Freddie enjoy in the home mortgage industry.
Freddie Mac CEO Richard Syron, defending his government protections in USA Today, writes : “We are a shareholder-owned company using private capital — not taxpayer funds — to achieve our mission.” Syron fails to mention the many federal benefits Freddie maintains, including guaranteed access to federal credit and the Federal Reserve’s authority to buy its debt. These advantages encourage global financial markets to view Freddie and Fannie debt as federally guaranteed.
Once the current crisis has subsided, Congress should seek to phase out Fannie and Freddie’s line of credit and eliminate the Fed’s authority to buy their debt.  Only when the government ends these special privileges will taxpayer risk and exposure be reduced and competition in the residential mortgage market restored.
Article printed from The Foundry: Conservative Policy News Blog from The Heritage Foundation: http://blog.heritage.org
URL to article: http://blog.heritage.org/2008/04/28/morning-bell-towards-an-orderly-withdrawal/
URLs in this post:
 losses totaling about $9 billion: http://www.realestatejournal.com/indinvestor/20080312-hagerty.html
 likely will drop: http://www.startribune.com/business/18159519.html
 These loans default at almost three times the rate of other loans.: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/09/business/09fha.html?scp=1&sq=rachel+swarns+&st=nyt
 Freddie and Fannie either guaranteed, or hold themselves, mortgage-backed securities totaling $5.2 trillion.: http://blogs.usatoday.com/oped/index.html#entry-49100780
 would increase Freddie and Fannie’s exposure to risk: http://www.foundry.org/2008/04/14/upcoming-housing-bill-panders-to-democrats-new-base/
 undermine already successful voluntary efforts: http://www.foundry.org/2008/04/11/morning-bell-let-hope-work-now/
 or at least limited to protect taxpayers as much as possible.: http://www.foundry.org/2008/04/16/morning-bell-steps-to-hault-future-bailouts/
 writes: http://blogs.usatoday.com/oped/2008/04/opposing-view-f.html#more
 Congress should seek to phase out Fannie and Freddie’s line of credit and eliminate the Fed’s authority to buy their debt.: http://www.heritage.org/Research/GovernmentReform/bg1861.cfm
 guns-for-butter: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/04/27/MNCU10BATO.DTL
 80 percent reduction by 2050: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120934459094348617.html?mod=opinion_main_commentaries
 Siding with workers: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/28/world/americas/28chavez.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper&oref=slogin
 environmentalists are blocking: http://www.latimes.com/news/science/environment/la-me-park27apr27,1,7219586.story
 comparing Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) to former Weather Underground terrorist William Ayers: http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/0408/Calling_Coburn.html
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