Postcards from the Bleeding Edge
Monday, September 08, 2008

  Nationalizing Fannie and Freddie

So Fannie and Freddie are now nationalized. Am I the only one who thinks that the federal government effectively owning over 1/3 of the housing stock in America is remarkably similar to any number of reprehensible lord/serf relationships, or, for that matter, communism?

There are a lot of ways to look at this. Very arguably, Fannie and Freddie helped cause the incredible runup in housing costs over the last couple decades. Before that, I don't know. As bad as it is going to get for the "haves", the have-nots have it worse - housing is still unaffordable, prices still need to come down, by a lot, AND they have to help foot the bill for the party that they couldn't attend.

I was rather struck by two details of the deal: Hooray for the little guy! He gets screwed (that said, I think that anyone still holding stock in these banks deserves what he gets) And the taxpayer gets to foot the bill, whatever it gets to be!Hooray for the big guys! They are gonna get paid! The government - people with guns and tanks - is going to enforce mortgage contracts now! Wall street rallies!

As for relief for the rest of us... well, I got lucky and sold my house a year ago, barely breaking even on it - and then left the country. I now know quite a few people that if they handed the government the keys to their property, and left, who would be far better off.

I used to say that Keynesian economics had two fatal flaws - 1) borrowing when the economy slumped and paying down the debt when it picked up almost never happened in practice - we borrow heavily in a slump and less heavily in an expansion. And 2) That, ultimately, the cost of trying to level out the business cycle over decades would result in a MAJOR slump because each borrowing cycle added just a little bit more weight to each successive cycle until the whole thing would collapse into mathematical chaos. By that, I mean a state where the traditional knobs by which governments fiddle with the business cycle stop working.

Chart of U.S. Money Supply GrowthPerhaps I'm right. But I'm not an economist. I note that the M3 statistic hit a major downtick at right around the same time that major banks began to fail... but the federal reserve claims that the m3 is irrelevant.

There's a song, "The Weight", by The Band, that strikes me as rather appropo' for today. I used to use it as a popular closer to a set back when I was still playing piano regularly. The chorus goes, in 3 or 4 part harmony:A lot of the rest of the lyrics are appropo', too.

Market forces DO work sometimes. It is highly ironic that - in response to high oil prices - gasp! - Americans reduced their driving consumption by 51 billion miles - AND that the Highway trust fund is nearly out of money. They are asking for a federal bailout, too, to the tune of 8 billion dollars.

You'd think that maybe less driving would = less roadwork?

Anyway, back to the bank deal. The feds are getting preferred stock AND 10% interest from their "investment" in Fannie and friends. Last I dared look, my savings account in my very solvent bank yielded .2% interest - that's POINT-2 PERCENT interest.

Real inflation is over 6%.

How do I get a piece of Fannie?

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David Täht writes about politics, space, copyright, the internet, audio software, operating systems and surfing.


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