The quotes below are from a review of a new book by Raghuram Rajan, former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, called “Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy.” A sample:
The credit market—at least as regards to housing—was distorted by government policy, not by a sudden and mysterious escalation in “greed.” The trends that shook the world economy came out of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, out of the Federal Housing Administration, and out of their “regulator,” the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
By 2000, HUD required that low-income loans make up 50 percent of Fannie and Freddie’s portfolios. Out of “compassionate conservatism,” perhaps, the Bush administration raised that mandate to 56 percent. Rajan cites Fannie Mae’s former chief credit officer, Edward Pinto, who notes that, by 2008, “the FHA and various other government programs were exposed to about $2.7 trillion in subprime and Alt-A loans, approximately 59 percent of total loans to these categories.” Peter Wallison of the American Enterprise Institute found that government-mandated loans accounted for two-thirds of “junk mortgages.”
Some might find Raghuram Rajan’s argument very compelling, but it also contradicts economist Paul Krugman’s constant assertion that Fannie and Freddie (and our beloved Barney Frank) had absolutely nothing to do with the real estate boom and bust.
What are your thoughts?