Thomas Sowell

Back in 2002, the Wall Street Journal said: "The time for the political system to focus on Fannie and Fred isn't when we have a housing crisis; by then it will be too late." The hybrid public-and-private nature of these financial giants amounts to "privatizing profit and socializing risk," since taxpayers get stuck with the tab when high-risk finances don't work out.

Similar concerns were expressed in 2003 by N. Gregory Mankiw, then Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers to President Bush. But liberal Democratic Congressman Barney Frank criticized Professor Mankiw, citing "concern for housing" as his reason for supporting Fannie Mae. Barney Frank said that fears about the riskiness of Fannie Mae were "overblown."

Maxine Waters and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus have also been among the liberal Democrats defending Fannie Mae. Just last year, Senator Charles Schumer advocated legislation to allow Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to increase their already huge role in the mortgage market. Republican Congressman Mike Oxley has also defended these hybrid financial giants.

Both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have been generous in their contributions to politicians' political campaigns, so it is perhaps not surprising that politicians have been generous to them.

This is certainly part of "the mess in Washington" that Barack Obama talks about. But don't expect him to clean it up. Franklin Raines, who made mega-millions for himself while mismanaging Fannie Mae into a financial disaster, is one of Obama's advisers.


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate