06.22.2010: The Obama Speech We're Waiting For... or, "Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac need to get the BP treatment"
From today's WSJ Op-Ed page, June 22, 2010: The Obama Speech We're Waiting For
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac need to get the BP treatment
By WILLIAM MCGURN
The President: Good evening. As we speak, our nation faces a multitude of challenges. At home, our top priority is to recover and rebuild from a recession. Abroad, our brave men and women in uniform are taking the fight to al Qaeda wherever it exists. Tonight, I want to speak with you about a battle we're waging against an enemy that is assaulting the very homes our citizens live in.
In September 2008, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac imploded when their losses became unsustainable. In part because so many of our financial institutions relied on mortgage-backed securities based on bad loans, a housing crisis exploded into a financial crisis. And Americans continue to suffer from the effects. Unlike a hurricane or oil spill, where the damage is obvious to the eye, the damage wrought by Fannie and Freddie is much more insidious. As president, I have many smart people in my administration. But you do not need a Nobel Prize to know the problem here.
Fannie and Freddie bought mortgages offered by banks, which it then resold as mortgaged-backed securities. Banks liked this, because it meant more money to lend. In the name of enabling ever more Americans to own their homes, and encouraged by Congress, Fannie and Freddie expanded into ever more risky mortgages. In the end, these two companies helped send billions in loans to Americans who lacked the means to pay them back—while spreading risk throughout our financial system.
"I have met with moms and dads who bought modest houses that were within their means—and now find their tax dollars going to bail out neighbors who bought bigger houses not within their means."
Think of these bad loans as a nasty leak polluting our financial system. While most other large financial firms either have failed or are now recovering, the damage caused by Fannie and Freddie continues largely unabated. The Congressional Budget Office says that plugging these bad loans has already cost taxpayers $145.9 billion, making them the single largest bailout of all.
Make no mistake: We will fight Fannie and Freddie with everything we have got for as long as it takes. We will make these two government-created companies pay for the damage they have caused. In fact, we are going to make Fannie and Freddie pay with their lives.
Tonight I'd like to lay out our battle plan going forward:
First, the cleanup. For more than three decades there's been a culture of corruption in the regulatory oversight of these companies. I inherited a situation in which these firms lobbied and captured their regulators. Fannie and Freddie's privileged place in the market was sustained because they were a source of riches for Washington's Republican and Democratic establishments. Even today we see this oily alliance at work in the recent decision by Congress to exempt Fannie and Freddie from their financial reform bill.
Tonight I promise you: We will do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, to change this.
One of the lessons we've learned from Fannie and Freddie is that you cannot combine private profit with taxpayers bearing risk. For decades we've propped up Fannie and Freddie's near monopoly. And for decades we have failed to face up to the fact that homeownership is not the best path for everyone. Time and again, reform has been blocked by former congressmen of both parties whom these companies hired to spread the money around and persuade Congress to back off.
So the second thing I will do is meet with the chairmen of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And I will tell them the day of reckoning has come.
We are going to break up Fannie and Freddie and end the privileges they enjoy from the government.
You know, for generations, Americans have scrimped and saved to provide a better life for their families. That is now in jeopardy. I have met with moms and dads who bought modest houses that were within their means—and now find their tax dollars going to bail out neighbors who bought bigger houses not within their means. I have stood with retirees whose pensions have been devastated. And I have sat in the living rooms of families who now face foreclosure on homes they were falsely assured they could afford.
The sadness and the anger they feel is not just about the money they've lost. It's about a wrenching anxiety that their way of life may be lost. I am a prayerful man. But I do not believe that the American people should have to pray that their own government isn't undermining their homes, their savings, and the lives they have built for their families.
The financial crisis was not caused by Fannie and Freddie alone. But fixing them is essential. To this important task, we bring hope, which comes from the confidence that free men and women in a free economy will in the end make better decisions than any government. And tonight we revive that hope by delivering change to two of the fattest cats Washington has ever known.
Thank you, and may God bless America.
And the bad news really is that such an investigation would bring the actions of many Senators and Congressmen out into the light in ways that would make it very difficult for them to attempt or achieve reelection!!!
Additional comments, 06.23.2010...
I agree with Ken on this one. And it's sad that any politician from either party whoever gets to be President will never be willing to either say such a speech or take the actions...Dave
I can only echo those who have responded before me. Perfect, and it will never be spoken in public by any President who would do what it takes to get that job. -- Ken