18 February 2015

Where Has All The Money Gone?

I've previously commented here about the collapse of the American housing bubble in 2009. One of my conclusions was that the federal government should reduce its role in propping up home lending. Subsidies of home loans serves to increase their availability, which increases the bubble in the subsidized activity and thus the size and duration of the crash when the bubble is pricked.

On Valentine's Day the New York Times published an insightful piece about why the federal government is still in the home lending business. (Not directly, mind you, but indirectly by owning the federally-chartered entities that guarantee the home loans made by private lenders.) In short, it's making money hand over fist.

How, you ask? Therein lies the story.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two federally-chartered but privately-owned corporations, guaranteed many home loans before the crash. Both became insolvent with the crash. (There was no way they could pay the defaulted mortgage loans made by the banks whose loans they guaranteed.) With their insolvency, the federal government simply seized their assets (and assumed their liabilities, thus again demonstrating how modern corporate capitalism privatizes gains but socializes risks--at least if you're part of an industry whose members are big donors to both political parties and many individual Congressional and Senate candidates).

With low interest rates thanks to the Federal Reserve Board, the national housing market has rebounded from its deep crash. With the rebound, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are extremely profitable. And since the federal government now owns them, it is taking these profits. The federal government, that is, and not the original shareholders of the two loan guarantors, which, as you might imagine, leaves them feeling rather peeved.

The equity interests of the former shareholders likely would have been wiped had Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac passed through bankruptcy like normal insolvent corporations although we'll never know. Bankruptcy, whatever its drawbacks, has the virtue of being a largely public proceeding. In other words, the former shareholders would have had their day in bankruptcy court which means they would have received the due process of law as provided by the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

But Fannie and Freddie never saw the light of bankruptcy or any other court proceeding. The Department of the Treasury simply sized their assets, what in other countries we would call nationalization. No process, due or otherwise.

The former shareholders are suing and having some success although it will take a very brave federal judiciary to provide them with complete vindication.

Interestingly, I'm not hearing a peep about this action from the self-styled non-MSM media types at Fox News. This only shows that both the Left and its media outlets (except for the New York Times, it seemsand the faux-Right are both on the corporate take.

Remember that when you hear the bleating from the self-described purveyors of truth every weekday afternoon.

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