February 2, 2010
Barney Frank wakes up and smells the coffee
Barney Frank played a large role in the mortgage bubble, battling attempts to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, who were pushing subprime and other questionable mortgages, with taxpayers on the hook.
From The Atlantic:
I think the answer is you separate out the function of providing the equity in general for the mortgage market and doing some subsidy and in my judgment, the subsidy again, as I said before, should be focused on affordable rental housing, not in pushing low income people into owning homes that they can't afford.For years, Barney Frank derailed efforts to restrict lending by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to unqualified borrowers. George Bush and Republicans for years tried to lower the risks of financial problems inherent in the very go-go sort of lending and guaranteeing that the two entities were binging on. Frank, in said this in 2003 about the Fannie and Freddie.
I worry, frankly, that there's a tension here. The more people, in my judgment, exaggerate a threat of safety and soundness, the more people conjure up the possibility of serious financial losses to the Treasury, which I do not see. I think we see entities that are fundamentally sound financially and withstand some of the disaster scenarios. . .I do think I do not want the same kind of focus on safety and soundness that we have in OCC [Office of the Comptroller of the Currency] and OTS [Office of Thrift Supervision]. I want to roll the dice a little bit more in this situation towards subsidized housing. . .
In 1999, even the New York Times noted that pressure to increase lending by Fannie Mae would significantly increase risk of financial collapse.
In a move that could help increase home ownership rates among minorities and low-income consumers, the Fannie Mae Corporation is easing the credit requirements on loans that it will purchase from banks and other lenders.
The action, which will begin as a pilot program involving 24 banks in 15 markets -- including the New York metropolitan region -- will encourage those banks to extend home mortgages to individuals whose credit is generally not good enough to qualify for conventional loans. Fannie Mae officials say they hope to make it a nationwide program by next spring.Fannie Mae, the nation's biggest underwriter of home mortgages, has been under increasing pressure from the Clinton Administration to expand mortgage loans among low and moderate income people.In moving, even tentatively, into this new area of lending, Fannie Mae is taking on significantly more risk, which may not pose any difficulties during flush economic times. But the government-subsidized corporation may run into trouble in an economic downturn, prompting a government rescue similar to that of the savings and loan industry in the 1980's.''From the perspective of many people, including me, this is another thrift industry growing up around us,'' said Peter Wallison a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. ''If they fail, the government will have to step up and bail them out the way it stepped up and bailed out the thrift industry.''
His roll of the dice came up a cropper, needless to point out. Even the New York Times realized the risks towards which Frank (and others) were willfuly blind.