An Inconvenient Truth
There is so much about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that we should be angry about.
In their heyday, these strange hybrids — part corporation, part government agency — were the biggest bullies in Washington, quick to bludgeon critics who dared suggest that their dual missions of maximizing profits while making homeownership affordable for low- and moderate-income Americans were incompatible. They steamrolled their regulator and pushed back at any suggestion that their capital was inadequate.
For years, they essentially wrote most of the legislation that affected them, which they larded with loopholes. In the mid-2000s, they had giant accounting scandals. Eventually, their quest for profits led them to make a belated, disastrous foray into subprime mortgages, which ended with their collapse, and which has cost taxpayers about $150 billion. Tragically, Fannie and Freddie could have led a housing recovery — if they hadn’t become crippled wards of the state instead.
Yet these real sins have been largely overlooked in favor of imagined ones. Over at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, two resident scholars, Peter Wallison and Edward Pinto, have concocted what has since become a Republican meme: namely, that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were ground zero for the entire crisis, leading the private sector off the cliff with their affordable housing mandates and massive subprime holdings.
The truth is the opposite: