A brief history of the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mess is in order. Back in the days when a Bank or Savings and Loan approved a home loan, they did so with lending standards that had historically led to only safe loans. They had to because they kept the loan and were responsible if it failed. These standards included 3 major parts.
First, the mortgage payments could be no greater that a set percentage of your income, usually about 40 percent.
Second, a down payment was required of about 10 percent or above so the new owner would immediately have some equity in the home.
Third, A good credit rating was required to prove you had a history of paying your bills.
Some adjustments could be made, for example people that had poor credit could get a loan with a larger down payment so if the loan failed, the bank could still resell the house and cover the loan.
With the well intentioned goal of increasing the level of home ownership in lower income and minority groups, Lenders were encouraged to make home loans that did not meet normal standards with the promise that Freddie Mae and Freddie Mac would buy these loans and the lenders were not responsible if they failed.
The Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac crisis has its roots in the Community Redevelopment Act signed into law during the Carter Administration. President Clinton, influenced by multiculturalism, encouraged it further by dictating where mortgage lenders could lend. Tough new regulations required that lenders increase their lending in high-risk areas where they had no choice but to lower lending standards to make loans that sound business practices had previously rejected. And again, Freddie Mae and Freddie Mac bought these loans, which means taxpayers were ultimately responsible if these loans failed.
As long as home values rise, failed loans could be covered by selling the house. If however, home values fell as they did during and after the 1973 Arab oil embargo when energy prices doubled, just as they have today, these failed loans caused a huge financial impact on Lenders and Freddie Mae and Freddie Mac. The huge increases in energy costs are an indisputable part of this financial crisis.
In 2003 the huge level of risk that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had come to represent for both taxpayers and financial institutions was becoming apparent. The Bush Administration attempted to reign in the problem by raising standards for loans that Freddie Mae and Freddie Mac guaranteed. Congressional Democrats blocked this reform so that minorities and low-income groups could continue to buy homes that by most standards they could not really afford.
From the New York Times September 11, 2003
The Bush Administration today recommended the most significant regulatory overhaul in the housing finance industry since the savings and loan crisis a decade ago.
Under the plan, disclosed at a Congressional hearing today, a new agency would be created within the Treasury Department to assume supervision of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored companies that are the two largest players in the mortgage lending industry.
The new agency would have the authority, which now rests with Congress, to set one of the two capital-reserve requirements for the companies. It would exercise authority over any new lines of business. And it would determine whether the two are adequately managing the risks of their ballooning portfolios.
The plan is an acknowledgment by the administration that oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — which together have issued more than $1.5 trillion in outstanding debt — is broken. A report by outside investigators in July concluded that Freddie Mac manipulated its accounting to mislead investors, and critics have said Fannie Mae does not adequately hedge against rising interest rates.
Among the groups denouncing the proposal today were the National Association of Home Builders and Congressional Democrats who fear that tighter regulation of the companies could sharply reduce their commitment to financing low-income and affordable housing.
''These two entities -- Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- are not facing any kind of financial crisis,'' said Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, the ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee. ''The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, and the less we will see in terms of affordable housing.''
Representative Melvin L. Watt, Democrat of North Carolina, agreed. ''I don't see much other than a shell game going on here, moving something from one agency to another and in the process weakening the bargaining power of poorer families and their ability to get affordable housing,'' Mr. Watt said.
John McCain saw the huge Freddie Mae and Freddie Mac train wreck coming in 2005 and lead a reform effort to again raise lending standards and protect taxpayers from what could become catastrophic costs from failed loans.
From the Congressional Record:
FEDERAL HOUSING ENTERPRISE REGULATOR REFORM
ACT OF 2005The United States Senate, May 25, 2006
Sen. John McCain [R-AZ]: Mr. President, this week Fannie Mae’s regulator reported that the company’s quarterly reports of profit growth over the past few years were “illusions deliberately and systematically created” by the company’s senior management, which resulted in a $10.6 billion accounting scandal.
The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight Oversight’s report goes on to say that Fannie Mae employees deliberately and intentionally manipulated financial reports to hit earnings targets in order to trigger bonuses for senior executives. In the case of Franklin Raines, Fannie Mae’s former chief executive officer, OFHEO’s report shows that over half of Mr. Raines’ compensation for the 6 years through 2003 was directly tied to meeting earnings targets. The report of financial misconduct at Fannie Mae echoes the deeply troubling $5 billion profit restatement at Freddie Mac.
For Years I have been concerned about the regulatory structure that governs Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — known as Government-sponsored entities or GSEs— and the sheer magnitude of these companies and the role they play in the housing market. OFHEO’s report this week does nothing to ease these concerns. In fact, the
report does quite the contrary. OFHEO’s report solidifies my view that the GSEs need to be reformed without delay.
These efforts were blocked by Congressional Democrats. Obama never lifted a finger to help any Freddie Mae and Freddie Mac reform effort. Perhaps that’s why Obama received $105,849, Nancy Pelosi $47,000 and Harry Reid $60,500 from Freddie Mae and Freddie Mac lobbyists and John McCain got none.
In a truly amazing insult to our intelligence, Obama campaigns daily on the premise that Bush and McCain are responsible for this mess! If Obama wanted to truly be a bipartisan leader he would distance himself from Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid who closed down Congress to go on vacation rather than allow any votes on the energy crises, and Barney Frank who fought Freddie Mae and Freddie Mac reform.