Wall Street Journal - Developments February 7, 2013By Alan Zibel
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D., Md.) is among lawmakers calling on
President Obama to nominate a permanent director for the FHFA.
When will the White House finally have something to say about President Barack Obama’s pick to run the FHFA?
That question is on the mind of 45 House Democrats. The lawmakers, led by Reps. Elijah Cummings (D., Md.) and John Tierney (D., Mass.), sent a letter on Thursday to President Barack Obama urging him to nominate a director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency–-the federal regulator for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
“We believe your re-election is a prime opportunity to put forth a new candidate who is ready and willing to implement all of Congress’ directives to meet the critical challenges still facing our nation’s housing-finance markets,” the lawmakers wrote.
The agency’s acting director, Edward DeMarco, has been criticized by Democrats on Capitol Hill, administration officials and liberal groups, all of whom have been calling on Mr. Obama to replace Mr. DeMarco.
Representatives for the White House and Mr. DeMarco were not immediately available for comment.
Why all the fuss about a seemingly obscure regulator? The most prominent area of conflict has been the FHFA’s refusal to accept the Obama administration’s offer to subsidize the cost of debt forgiveness for troubled homeowners.
Obama administration officials argued that Fannie and Freddie could actually save money by doing so but Mr. DeMarco said no, arguing that any potential savings would not be large enough to overcome other costs.
As Developments reported in December, the White House has been exploring potential leaders for the agency.
But the matter does not appear to be especially urgent for the administration as it focuses on confirming leaders for cabinet-level agencies such as the Treasury Department.
Another issue is that it may be difficult to find a FHFA nominee who could clear the Senate, where Republicans are likely to be skeptical of any choice: The administration’s first choice to run the FHFA, former North Carolina banking regulator Joseph Smith, withdrew his name more than two years ago in the face of intense Republican opposition.
Many on the left would like Mr. Obama to use a recess appointment to install Mr. DeMarco’s replacement. But that outcome is now highly unlikely, now after a federal court ruled that Mr. Obama’s use of that method to install three members of a federal labor panel was unconstitutional.
An historical observation relating to this pressure from the left on federal housing policy:
On November 5th 2012 (the day before the election) President Obama spoke to a group in Columbus, Ohio.After hearing an excerpt from the speech I began to wonder if he actually believes what he said, or if he's just rearranging history to suit his goals. I hope you will watch the video at the following hyperlink to its end. I think I ask some relevant questions in the last minute, or so.Economics professors will tell you that one of the best ways to create jobs, and to stimulate an economy, is support home building. (Think of all the trades, products and services that are required to build and furnish a home.)But, I've never heard of any economics professor who advocated a long-term policy of providing loans to people who couldn't afford to repay the loans (However, I think some of what are called "Keynesian Economists" seem to favor such policies over as a short term prescription for economic stimulus.)I’ve come to believe that many of the policies embraced by President Bill Clinton produced great economic results during (and, for awhile after) his administration. But, as those policies and political pressures went to excess, they eventually led to the housing bubble and the financial crisis.It seems, the financial bubble that burst during the last year of George W. Bush's administration was a long time in the making.Just a thought . . . .
Part of the problem lies in changes in mortgage processing over the past few decades. Fannie and Freddie rolled out automated-underwriting systems in the mid-1990s that allowed lenders to punch borrower data into computer systems in order to receive faster approvals or denials.The mortgage bust highlighted weaknesses. Fannie and Freddie did few upfront reviews of loans that they purchased; instead, they screened some of those that went bad, forcing banks to buy back any with obvious signs of negligence or fraud.After the meltdown, the mortgage giants began hiring armies of auditors—called "bounty hunters" by bank executives—to conduct detailed reviews of loan files to spot errors that could justify a put-back.deja vu