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"They Had a Blank-Check from the Federal Government"

Posted By Conn Carroll On October 6, 2008 @ 2:08 pm In Economics | Comments Disabled

The left really has no idea what free markets are. Witness Washington Post [1] columnist Harold Meyerson who wrote a column last week blaming the current credit crisis on ‘unregulated capitalism’ and ‘laissez faire’ policies. According to Merriam-Webster, ‘laissez faire’ means: “a doctrine opposing governmental interference in economic affairs beyond the minimum necessary for the maintenance of peace and property rights.” Keep that in mind as you read this transcript [2] from CNBC between Becky Quick and Warren Buffett:

QUICK: Let’s talk about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, specifically. These are two stocks that it seems like every time you turn around are touching new low levels. There’s a lot of concern out there on the market about these two stocks right now. What’s your general take on how they got here and what you think’s going to happen next?

Mr. BUFFETT: Well, how they got here was they had two businesses, basically.

QUICK: Mm-hmm.

Mr. BUFFETT: They insured mortgages on a huge scale, trillions, and then they ran sort of a hedge fund, a carry trade where they bought mortgages and borrowed extensively against them. And because they had really the backing of the United States government–and everybody assumed they had the backing. I assumed it. And the truth is they do have the backing of the United States government in terms of their debt, not in terms of their equity–they were able to borrow without any normal restraints in terms of capital or margin requirements or anything of the sort. They had a blank-check from the federal government.

QUICK: Mm-hmm.

Mr. BUFFETT: And they also had an added problem in that they had a dual mission. The government expected them to promote housing and the stockholders expected them to raise the earnings substantially every year. And as the years went by, they mphasized the latter more and more. They started talking about “steady Freddie,” and Fannie Mae said, `We’re going to increase the earnings at 15 percent a year.’ Any large financial institution that tells you that sort of thing is giving you a line of baloney. I mean, they may do it for a while, but when they can’t do it with operations, they do it with accounting and they cheat. And that’s what happened at both those places on a huge, huge scale.


Article printed from The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation: http://blog.heritage.org

URL to article: http://blog.heritage.org/2008/10/06/they-had-a-blank-check-from-the-federal-government/

URLs in this post:

[1] Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/09/30/AR2008093002314.html

[2] transcript: http://www.clusterstock.com/2008/8/that-awesome-warren-buffett-cnbc-interview

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