Saturday, September 06, 2008

"These are your cousins Freddie and Fannie. They're going to be living with us now."

Those words were common among a previous generation's children, when hard times meant that families had to double up. There are many Americans of late who have taken in a family member (or five) in light of more recent troubles. But the cousins whom we're ALL taking in very shortly are, of course, the mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, the multi-billion dollar failure of which is going to dwarf the S&L crisis of the '80's:

Senior officials from the Bush administration and the Federal Reserve on Friday informed top executives of mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that the government was preparing to seize the two companies and place them in a conservatorship, officials and company executives briefed on the discussions said.

The plan, effectively a government bailout, was outlined in separate meetings that the chief executives were summoned to attend on Friday at the office of the companies' new regulator. The executives were told that, under the plan, they and their boards would be replaced, shareholders would be virtually wiped out, but the companies would be able to continue functioning with the government generally standing behind their debt, people briefed on the discussions said.

It is not possible to calculate the cost of any government bailout, but the huge potential liabilities of the companies could cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars and make any rescue among the nation's largest ever.

It's likewise impossible to calculate what the long-term effects beyond the simple cost of the initial taxpayer bailout are going to be. With America's automakers teetering on the verge of collapse as well, the United States is entering dangerous economic territory (and it's not as if any of this this was an unexpected development). Take a look at two of the most recommended comments in that link above:

... Privatize the profits, and socialize the loss ...Welfare state for coroprations (sic) and tough love for middle class and below . This bailout is nothing but a massive transfer of wealth from the US taxpayers to astronomically rich private investors and foreign governments. The biggest foreign holders of Freddie and Fannie's debts are China, Japan, the Cayman Islands, Luxembourg, and Belgium. Do you want to bail them out with your tax dollars? Think this needs to change?

... all other news will pale in comparison in terms of something that will impact our lives. This decision, so rife with moral hazard, will shake the very foundations of our financial system and add even more debt for our children to pay off.....what a sad farce...

This, and the adverse financial developments that will ripple from it, make considerably weaker our credit markets, our currency, our economy and our national security. Do we really need to consider what John McCain and Sarah Palin and top economic adviser Phil Gramm -- who still insists some people are just whining about a recession -- might do about the crises to come?

That would be nothing, in case you were wondering. Absolutely nothing.

The Republican party is going to own this failure for generations to come.

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