News Release

Fannie Mae Bailout

ROBERT POLLIN
Pollin is the Political Economy Research Institute’s founding co-director and professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Pollin recently wrote the piece “The Housing Bubble and Financial Deregulation: Isn’t Enough Enough?” which states: “The collapse at the end of 2007 of the U.S. housing bubble and the speculative market for subprime mortgage loans demonstrates, yet again, the simple point that financial markets should never be allowed to operate without tight regulations. The only thing preventing today’s financial markets from experiencing a 1929-style collapse is government bailout operations. …

“Yet U.S. politicians — Democrats and Republicans alike — began deregulating the U.S. financial system in the 1970s based on the contention that the regulations devised during the 1930s Depression were not appropriate to contemporary conditions, and that financial markets could operate more effectively in a free-market setting.”

Pollin’s books include Contours of Descent: U.S. Economic Fractures and the Landscape of Global Austerity and The Macroeconomics of Saving, Finance, and Investment.

DEAN BAKER
Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and wrote the book The Conservative Nanny State: How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer.

He said today: “Apparently the government is going to hand Fannie [Mae] and Freddie [Mac] bucket loads of taxpayer dollars, no questions asked. … That’s nice. Shareholders who would have lost all their money if matters were left to the market, may instead walk away with billions of dollars. Similarly, the top executives of these companies, who earn salaries in the millions and tens of millions of dollars, will keep collecting their paychecks.

“We should all be thankful that the government intervened. After all, really rich people and investment fund managers can’t be expected to be able to handle their investments on their own. They need the helping hand of the government when they really screw up.

“Similarly, we don’t want the fate of highly paid executives to be left to market. If this happened, some might lose their vacation homes and private jets.

“Some people say that we had to hand tens of billions of dollars to the country’s richest people to prevent a financial collapse. This is simply not true.

“We had to keep Fannie and Freddie in business, but we could have done this by putting conditions on the bailout. The government uses conditions all the time when it offers help to low and moderate income people. Unemployment insurance, TANF, food stamps, and even student loans come with all sorts of conditions.

“It is only when it comes to giving money to extremely rich people that we find it impossible to impose conditions. Again, we could have told Fannie and Freddie that no executives will get more than $2 million a year in total compensation. We could have told their shareholders that they are out of luck, because that is what is supposed to happen when you invest in a bankrupt company.

“Instead, we told the people who work as truck drivers, school teachers, and fire fighters that they will have to pay more in taxes to help some of the richest people in the country escape the consequences of their own stupidity. While kicking the poor is always fun for politicians, neither the Bush administration nor Congress are prepared to tell the very rich that they are on their own.”

Baker is currently out of the country but can be reached via email.

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167