We had Barry Ritholtz and Dean Baker on TechTicker to discuss the Fannie and Freddie reality: Those huge losses are NOT the result of additional boneheaded mortgage losses. They’re losing money as a matter of policy.
In other words, Fannie and Freddie are just taking over for TARP as a huge, covert bank bailout.
The Senate on Tuesday rejected a Republican sponsored measure that would effectively cut off support to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in two years. The government-sponsored enterprises, now in conservatorship, have already cost the government about $145 billion.
And there’s no limit to how much more they can ask for for the next two years!
Fannie Mae lost $11.5 billion in the first quarter while Freddie Mac lost more than $6.7 billion. After posting those massive losses, they asked for a combined additional sum of nearly $20 billion in government assistance.
“Are they losing money as a matter of policy or are they losing it as bad judgment?” asks Dean Baker, co-director of the centre for Economic and Policy Research, who calls the Fannie and Freddie the elephant in the bailout room.
Baker and Fusion IQ’s Barry Ritholtz are convinced the government is effectively sponsoring a backdoor bailout of the banks via the GSEs. “This is a conscious, willful decision,” says Ritholtz, author of The Big Picture blog and Bailout Nation. “Fannie And Freddie act as a conduit for taking all this junk off the banks’ balance sheets.”
And Congress is along for the ride, says Baker. “To some extent the wool’s been pulled over their eyes but I’d just say it’s willingly. They just don’t want to deal with it right now,” he notes. The fear is cutting off aid to Fannie and Freddie could kill the housing industry. In the first quarter, the government backed more than 96% of all residential mortgages.
Whatever the reason, taxpayers will continue to pay the price. Ritholtz estimates Freddie and Fannie could easily cost us $400 billion combined; judging by the continued carnage “maybe that’s way on the low side?” he concedes.