Free Markets, Free People

Barney Frank wants another chance to destroy the housing market

If you live in Frank’s district, this is the only reason you need to vote for Sean Bielat, his GOP opponent.  I.e. Frank is about to remake Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in his own image.  That after the two institutions that he fought so hard to support with your tax dollars and attempted to keep Congressional oversight to a minimum, tanked and almost took the economy with them.

The Washington Post has a mostly sympathetic piece (poor Barney, he only wanted to use your money to help the poor put a roof over their heads) which, if you read carefully between the lines, at least hints at most of the story.  And the rest of the story ends with us pumping $160 billion and counting into the two institutions after the government took them over.

Back when it all started, Frank identified cash cows in the two institutions which would allow him to fulfill his personal agenda:

Fannie and Freddie were in the business of buying and guaranteeing mortgage loans from private lenders, which in turn could take the money and make even more loans to prospective homebuyers or developers looking to build apartment buildings.

Democrats, led by one of Frank’s closest allies, Rep. Henry B. Gonzalez (D-Tex.), wanted to require the two companies to spend a specific percentage of their funds on affordable housing. Under the proposed legislation, the companies were to buy home loans made to lower- and middle-class people and loans going to fund development of affordable rental housing.

This represented a rich new vein of money.

But even as Democrats were looking to expand Fannie and Freddie’s mission, a small group of Republicans, led by Rep. Jim Leach of Iowa, urged the government to pay more attention to the dangers posed by the firms.

Let’s see – “rich vein of money” or oversight and caution?  “Rich vein of money” of course.  So Leach’s warning were pushed aside:

The companies had been growing ever larger. Yet compared with their rivals in the banking industry, they were putting aside relatively little capital to cover potential losses. Leach proposed a tough new regulator that would restrain Fannie and Freddie.

Nah.  So onward we went, huge sums of money flowing out the door, very little oversight, with a political agenda driving the bus instead of financial sanity.  That was in 1992.  In 2003, the warnings were still coming and getting louder:

By late 2003, the firms had taken on more than $4 trillion in debt, rivaling that of the entire federal government. Yet Frank, who had by then become the top Democrat on the influential House Financial Services Committee, still wasn’t focused on the risks. He had his sights set on what else they could do to promote for affordable housing, particularly low-cost rental housing.

At a hearing called by Republicans, who controlled the committee, Frank made clear that he was reluctant to tighten oversight because it could limit the ability of Fannie and Freddie to help people get a roof over their heads.

The companies, he urged colleagues, "are two of the very important tools that we have" and had to do what "the market in and of itself will not do. "They were "not endangering the fiscal health of this country," he continued.

But, of course, they were and did endanger the fiscal health of the country.  Denial was his only weapon and he used it constantly – because his personal political agenda was apparently worth the risk – at least to him.  He even said once he wanted to “roll the dice” a little more, perfectly willing to risk the fiscal future of the country to push his political agenda.

And you all know the rest of the story. 

Fannie and Freddie proceeded to load up on securities backed by risky mortgages, such as subprime loans and no-document loans. The firms asserted that they were aggressively fulfilling their affordable housing mission, and some risky mortgages were indeed going to borrowers who couldn’t otherwise afford a home.

But many of the loans were going to people who could have afforded traditional mortgages, and the companies were bulking up on the risky loans purely in pursuit of even larger profits.

When the housing market crashed, the unprecedented surge in mortgage defaults blew a hole in the firms’ finances.

The Democrats and Frank want to deny this part of the story or pretend it is an insignificant part of it or that what happened to Freddie and Fannie were a result of Wall Street’s shenanigans. 

Not really.  The prime buyer and bundler of the sub-prime mortgages were those two institutions.   And, as the article notes, Freddie and Fannie believed they were “aggressively fulfilling their affordable housing mission” as legislatively enabled by Barney Frank and Congress.

And what has he managed to get for his effort?

For all his efforts, Frank readily acknowledges that there are more people needing decent housing than there were when he started in Congress. And with millions of others losing their homes to foreclosure, Frank asks to be judged by how much worse things would have been without him.

"In the political world, you get measured on the ultimate results," he said. "I think we’ve prevented things from getting as bad as they otherwise might have been."

Really?  Have you looked around you Mr. Frank?  This ranks right up there with the unmeasurable “saved jobs” nonsense pushed by the administration in the midst of 9.6% unemployment.  And now Frank is going to get another chance to shape the housing market’s future?

Time to put him into retirement before he can again try to do what he did last time.  Another reality of the “political world” is you should only get one chance and if you screw it up as badly as Frank did, you should join the ranks of the unemployed.

~McQ

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14 Responses to Barney Frank wants another chance to destroy the housing market

  • “Frank asks to be judged by how much worse things would have been without him.”

    Hmmm. Sounds familiar.

    The old lesser of two evils theory. 

  • The Democrats and Frank want to deny this part of the story or pretend it is an insignificant part of it or that what happened to Freddie and Fannie were a result of Wall Street’s shenanigans.

    An inconvenient truth, to turn a phrase.  Herbert and Marion Sandler are the poster children.

  • “For all his efforts, Frank readily acknowledges that there are more people needing decent housing than there were when he started in Congress. And with millions of others losing their homes to foreclosure, Frank asks to be judged by how much worse things would have been without him.”
     
    Good God, it’s like an arsonist who set fire to a stretch of forest, and now wants credit because firefighters used that area as a fire break to stave off another fire he set somewhere else.

  • Helping the poor at any cost” sounds noble and good, until you realize that they were not kidding about the “ANY cost” part.  It’s like fighting a fire that threatens to damage a house by hitting the house with a tidal wave.  Hey, you did put the fire out, didn’t you?

  • Barney Frank needs to go! All hands on deck, to help Sean Bielat win this thing!!
    http://WWW.BYEBYEBARNEY.ORG

  • Why can’t “affordable housing” be RENTAL, Barney?

  • Alright.  You,  Bruce McQuain, are a liar.  When you’re man enough (maybe someday?) argue with me about this.  Meanwhile…

    “Yet compared with <em>their rivals</em> in the banking industry, they were putting aside <em>relatively</em> little capital to cover potential losses.”

    (Emphasis mine)

    What “rivals” are you talking about?  What was “relatively” the difference in capital backing, even if this comparison was apropos in the first place?

    “‘Democrats, led by one of Frank’s closest allies, Rep. Henry B. Gonzalez (D-Tex.), wanted to require the two companies to spend a specific percentage of their funds on affordable housing. Under the proposed legislation, the companies were to buy home loans made to lower- and middle-class people and loans going to fund development of affordable rental housing.’”

    You quoted this.  What does this “proposed” legislation have to do with things that actually happened?

     “The Democrats and Frank want to deny this part of the story or pretend it is an insignificant part of it or that what happened to Freddie and Fannie were a result of Wall Street’s shenanigans.”

    What are you saying here?  That F&F, during a period of GOP one-party-state control of all three branches of government, were motivated, without Wall Street’s influence, by Democrats like Barney Frank, to engage in backing bad loans?  You sir, are a liar and a moron.  A sleazy liar and a moron.  I can read no further.  You are truly an idiotic liar.  Feel free to try to vainly prove me wrong.

    JMJ    

  • I am reading Too Big To Fail, and it has Paulson thinking that he would be able to get rid of the two GSE’s once the crisis was over. LOL. Does anyone have a plan to shut them down?

  • Nice try, Bruce.  Obviously I can tell the difference between quotes and opinions as you can see from what I wrote.  But a nice, sleazy, attempt at a bait ‘n switch just the same.

    Proving my theory, you apparently just lack the intellectual skill to take me on and back your, all be they loosely (though obviously) conferred, opinions. 

    JMJ 

    • Can you? It’s not obvious to me. What is obvious, however, is someone who shows up at a blog calling others “liars” has no intention of “debating” anyone. You’re a run of the mill troll. Go play elsewhere.