Explaining Paulson's plan better than Paulson.
"Huh?" again. Conn Carroll responds:
The problem is that Fannie was Countrywide's No. 1 enabler. ... When he was CEO of Fannie, former Barack Obama campaign adviser Jim Johnson worked personally with Mozilo to streamline the two companies' business relationship.
Could Mozilo have done his subprime thing without Johnson and Fannie Mae as a backup to purchase his junky mortgages?
P.S.: Krugman suggests Fannie's problem is that it wasn't a true government agency, but rather a hybrid public/private partnership that privatized profits and socialized losses.
Liberals like Fannie the way it was for the first 30 years — a purely public enterprise.
Good point--according to Smith Fannie seems to have been using all sorts of tricks to turn profits using its implicit government credit guarantee.But if Fannie had been a pure government enterprise, would it really have refrained from supporting Mozilo-style subprime lending? I'm not so sure. Providing "affordable housing" was a policy crusade of Johnson, among others, and a popular goal on Capitol Hill (where Mozilo had done so much to ensure that his "friends" would be receptive to his particular method of pursuing affordability).
P.P.S.: Krugman also writes, boldly:
You could say that the Fannie-Freddie experience shows that regulation works.
You could say that--unless you read the remainder of Krugman's column, which notes the inadequate capital requirements imposed on Fannie-Freddie because
the companies' management bought off the political process, systematically hiring influential figures from both parties.
P.P.P.S.: Is this risk of corruption any less with a) "purely public enterprise" than with b) a public-private hybrid like Fannie Mae or c) a purely private enterprise (like, say, the Blackstone Group)? Interesting question. I would think well-connected liberal operatives like Johnson would be capable of at least perverting a regulatory regime even if they headed a 100% federal, civil-servicized Fannie Mae. (Most "regulation" is in category (c) of course, where the risk of corruption seems somehow undiminished by the triumphant "Fannie-Freddie experience.") ...
Photograph of John McCain on the Slate home page by Alex Wong/Getty Images.