The Federal government wrote a $4 billion check to two American companies on Friday, and not a single publication bothered to report it.
The mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac make more money per employee than any other company in America – and for the past decade, have been 100% under government control.
The tale of Fannie and Freddie is a reminder that “temporary” government help is seldom temporary. The two companies initially agreed to take $187 billion in bailout funds during the financial crisis in 2008, which they’d pay back with 10% interest. The two firms returned to profitability sooner than expected from the financial crisis, so much so that the federal government changed the terms of the deal, and implemented a so-called “net worth sweep,” in which they’d take 100% of the firms’ profits, in perpetuity.
And the icing on the cake? Because Fannie and Freddie can’t hold any cash reserves of their own, advocates of the status quo cite this as evidence that Fannie and Freddie can’t exist on their own in the private sector without government support. Of course, they wouldn’t be in the situation of having any cash if it wasn’t for the Treasury taking all their profits.
And it’s been a great deal for the Treasury. Fannie and Freddie have paid back taxpayers $100 billion above the $187 billion they were loaned.
So how is this government cash cow a problem? Because, if Fannie and Freddie have to pay all their profits to the Treasury when they’re profitable, it’s we the taxpayers who have to make up the difference when the two aren’t. Due to accounting changes resulting from Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the two firms saw the values of their deferred tax assets decline, and that was enough to blow a $4 billion hole in the companies, requiring the Treasury to write them a check.
I have yet to find a single publication that reported on this transfer on Friday, but the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s documents prove it occurred. Freddie took $312 million, while Fannie took $3.69 billion.
If they require $4 billion so far this year, how much taxpayer money will they require when the economy inevitably falls into recession sometime in the (hopefully far) future?
A number of Trump administration officials have publicly expressed support for re-privatizing the two entities and having the government exit their stake in the companies, such as Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and new Director of the National Economic Council Larry Kudlow. A Republican National Committee paper from last September argued that the “Treasury can generate an estimated $100 billion in additional cash profits by monetizing” the government’s stakes in the two companies.
Will this mini-bailout finally be the catalyst towards getting Fannie and Freddie out of government hands, so they can thrive or fail on their own?
Should the government stop bailing out these companies and let them survive on their own? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!