The Law Is Strange
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Publicize Fannie Mae

Tanta of Calculated Risk agrees with the Laura d'Andrea Tyson line on the GSES:

Calculated Risk: Krugman on the GSEs: Because credit risk is now the front and center concern in everyone's minds, here in this bust of the bubble, I think it's very difficult for people to grasp the primary liquidity function of the GSEs. They have always been about recycling lending capital and taking long-term fixed interest rate risk off depository (and eventually non-depository) lenders much more than about merely absorbing credit risk. This goes against the grain of much current media over-simplification of "securitization" of mortgage loans that sees laying off credit risk as the main or even the only point of selling loans. The GSEs do take on the credit guarantee obligation of the securities they issue, but nobody sells loans to the GSEs just to offload credit risk--in fact, more than a few lenders work hard to negotiate contracts with the GSEs that leave quite a substantial part of the credit risk with the original lender: recourse agreements, indemnifications, servicing options that put a lot of the cost of default on the seller/servicer, not the GSE. They have historically done this because the credit risk of GSE-eligible loans has always been modest, but the benefits of getting 30-year fixed interest rate loans off your balance sheet has been substantial....

Fannie Mae didn't start out as a "GSE," it started out as a government agency. It can go back to being a government agency if the government needs to further the economic goals of liquidity in the home mortgage market--and maybe it can go back to doing business with Podunk National, rather than lavishing its capital on mega-lenders who aren't going to be subject to regional liquidity crunches. All this uproar over "nationalizing" the GSEs seems to me the part that is really overblown. If they can't raise enough capital as shareholder-owned entities to prevent the necessity of periodic bailouts, then let's end the experiment with "GSEs" and make them agencies of the government. Any "rescue" that doesn't wipe out the shareholders is simply making a bad thing worse.

The irony of the "subprime" situation, it seems to me, is that we probably all would have been better off if the GSEs had gotten into it in a big way. If the GSEs had been able to create a market in "vanilla" subprime--fixed rates, no prepayment penalties, careful documentation requirements, competitive pricing--and forced their seller/servicers into a "subprime box," the subprime loan market would have been a lot better off. The "pseudo-Maes and Macs" have never really been very good at providing the kind of market discipline within their purview that the real Mae and Mac have. But we wanted "innovation" and "choice" and "flexibility," not domesticated subprime and "alt" financing with low margins, uniform loan terms, and front and side airbags...