What to do with Fannie and Freddie?
Some new ideas about how to fix flailing mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which are under government receivership and recorded first quarter losses of more than $13 billion this year.
In addition to comments, the magazine’s web site allows users to recommend responses they like. It’s hardly scientific, but since the rankings (as of 9:15pm eastern time) work to my favor, let me rank them in declining order of recommendations:
My co-author Phill Swagel (a whopping 13 recommendations) describes our joint proposal for fully private GSEs that purchase an explicit backstop from the government for their mortgage-backed securities. Pros: The relationship is explicit and transparent, taxpayers are compensated for bearing risk, the portfolios are eliminated, the government backstop will soften severe mortgage meltdowns, and competition can discipline the Fannie and Freddie duopoly. Cons: There are still risks from the remaining government role.
Larry Kotlikoff (11 recs) outlines another proposal to restructure the companies into more sensible private entities. His model: mortgage mutual fund companies.
John Makin (7 recs) wins the award for brevity, arguing that they should be liquidated over 5 years.
Mark Thoma (4 recs) suggests a continued role for the firms, as long as they face much tighter regulation.
Tom Gallagher (4 recs) proposes putting them back on the federal budget as real agencies. This avoids some potential pitfalls of having them run as private companies.
P.S. As an anonymous commenter helpfully points out, the entries over at the Economist have these newfangled things called “dates” associated with them. Not sure how I missed that. The two highest scorers are also the oldest. Also, I must confess that I clicked the recommend button on Phill’s piece, lifting it to 14 votes. Because of some weird interaction between Safari and the Economist site, however, that resulted in it believing that I recommended all five pieces. Ah the perils of technology.
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