Monday, March 2, 2009

It Was the Best of Times, It Was the.....

GOP Self-Flagellation?

With a vote likely to come up in the House this week to allow bankruptcy judges to rewrite mortgage terms on a family’s residence, are the House Republicans really going to “whip against it” (technical term when the House regional “Whips” call on their political brethren to oppose legislation), once again throwing their chips on the moneyed interests and against consumers?

After voting en masse to oppose the Obama stimulus legislation, it’s not beyond belief that the Boehner-led lemmings might keep heading for that cliff by supporting the banks and mortgage lenders and opposing judicial relief for financially hurting individuals and families.

Obama, Last Week

How many politicians, in a serious way, get a chance to actually put forward many of the planks on which they camapaigned?

In his address to Congress, Obama laid out his plans for the future of the United States and--in his executive actions, pronouncements, and now his first federal budget--is aggressively trying to make good on those very issues on which he successfully ran.

A fickle public--which seems to adore President Obama now--could turn on him, if positive results don’t flow soon from his stimulus initiatives and the nation doesn’t get relief from what has been an avalanche of bad economic news.

But once that turns—and it will turn—Obama could reap the kind of national support that will allow him to turn those “campaign ideas,” into major changes in the way our nation conducts its domestic and international lives.

I wasn’t around for the “Great Depression,” but heard a lot about it from my parents and relatives. I never can appreciate what President Franklin Roosevelt meant for battered everyday Americans. But I have to believe that we are starting to see some of that hope for a better tomorrow manifested among our citizens, when they hear President Obama discuss his policy vision for the United States.

The President is not backing off anything and, in Saturday remarks, challenged Washington special interests and lobbyists to join him or get run over defending the status quo.

Interesting approach, Mr. President!

When you get the kids their hypoallergenic Labradoodle or Portuguese water dog, you might want to get a gaggle of pit bulls for yourself, just to guard your back.

Give me an “N,” Give me an “A”

Nationalization by any other name is….”nationalization.” I don’t care what the Administration’s policy makers chooses to call it, when they start putting money into the big banks and taking pieces of the bank’s future action, Uncle Sam owns them. You can dance around the terminology, and people will, but at least let's be honest about the policies.

There may be nothing wrong with federal control over some of these institutions, especially since, recently, they didn’t do the best job under “private control.”

But, I sure wouldn’t want to dance on the difference between “nationalization” and what actually is happening to those large financial institutions, when the Treasury or Fed pumps even more money into them.

Shoot Me, Before I Lobby Again!

Just what is the purpose of Freddie Mac “investigating itself” for grievous lobbying errors, using its long time pet law firm Covington and Burling?

C&B is being asked to look at Freddie political/lobbying behavior in 2005, which presumably Covington saw first hand--but uttered no stop warnings--when Freddie engaged in the campaign against the GSE reform bill. Is the law firm now supposed to say, “We and Freddie were wrong back then and they should have not done it and we shouldn’t not have ignored what they did?”

Just what did Freddie Government Relations VP Hollis McLaughlin reportedly do, when he oversaw an outside consulting firm’s work to influence congressional legislation affecting Freddie?
The media reports have him conducting a “stealth” congressional lobbying campaign, because—presumably--nobody was aware that Freddie was behind it. (I have some great land in Florida and some almost good mortgages to sell you, if you believe that one.)

Wasn’t that what McLaughlin was paid to do and, at the time when the purported questionable activity occurred, the GSE didn’t face any ban on lobbying, like the current one imposed by its regulator. So, what was the sin?

Well, the apparent sin—among others—appears to be that Hollis might have been a bigger player in the Freddie decision-making world than he and others let on.

He reportedly wasn’t a good boss and ran roughshod over those people who reported to him and—somehow--survived the lobbyist purge when Freddie senior officials (with Hollis as an accomplice?) fired many of their veteran professionals who had worked in the legislative/lobbying/industry outreach trenches for the company. He supposedly hogged up “event tickets” for his family's use, which Freddie had purchased for lobbying purposes. And, he did not treat kindly his direct reports who survived the “putsch.”

Those chickens are coming home to roost and some of the some current Freddies and a few former employees are putting Hollis’ business “in the street,” or more directly dishing with the media about the man’s true record, management shortcomings and lack of loyalty.

And where’s “Inspector Renault” (FHFA Director James Lockhart), when all of this questionable lobbying action was going on, including Freddie now spending money to close a long emptied barn door?

How was McLaughlin allowed to stay, since OFHEO/FHFA (Lockhart) hasn’t been reluctant to name other people it wanted gone from the former GSEs? Were the two buddies from the Bush days? Do they belong to the same fraternity or the same golf club?

But, the bigger question is why the self investigation, now, and who is it meant to snare or satisfy?

McLaughlin recently even has been recruiting candidates to do congressional relations for Freddie!

Yes, I know OFHEO/FHFA has banned them from lobbying, but they still get calls from the Hill for information and market explanations. Fannie has two people handling those matters and Freddie has…..well, several more, with another being sought! (But, I am sure that Lockhart is all over that disparity.)

If Hollis can expand his universe, when FHFA has battened down the lobbying part of Freddie’s world, then he has the post-nuclear survival skills of a cockroach, which I observe in the most positive way.

(Bulletin: Freddie’s new top guy, David Moffett, has resigned this morning. “But, we hardly….!” I knew something was up when “insiders” started referring to him as “Muppet.”)

Conservative Leadership Choices for President

Whatever happened to that once full GOP political larder, which seemed to have several “presidential-candidates-in-waiting?

Well, the truth is that they still do, but very few of them seem worth a cup of coffee. Last year’s GOP primary knocked off a few.

Mitt Romney, Bobby Jindal, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, and Charlie Crist were some of the top names that conservatives--meeting at the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) annual meeting--ruminated over this weekend, before they voted that Romney had the best chance to lead the party in the 2012 elections and retake the White House.

Not very likely in my book.

Mitt, with all of his good looks and cash, couldn’t beat a shaky John McCain last year and the world is unlikely to demystify the Mormon Church in the next four years, his membership in which seemed to hurt his GOP Primary efforts among the “Christian Right.”

Let me go out on a limb here and say that nothing in the next four years will make Sarah Palin an acceptable national candidate, after her self inflicted wounds during the 2008 campaign. Even if she agrees to more of those wickedly funny “Jerry Sub Shop” radio commercials, which have a Palin “sound-alike,” saying--after she promotes a steak and cheese sandwich special-- “Ya know Jer, I can see the United States from my front porch.”

That will not revive whatever political viability Palin once had, although it might enlarge her pocketbook...

Bobby Jindal, unfortunately, will need a long time to come back from his disastrous televised response to President Obama’s ‘state of the nation” speech, which had more Republicans quick to complain than Democrats. An otherwise bright young public official whose handlers made him look rigid, backward looking, and doctrinaire conservative, Jindal had the opportunity to look and sound so much better. But, he allowed himself to be captive to the traditional GOP mantra, “We need more business tax relief and small government.” The first of which didn’t help a broad swath of Americans and the second totally eluded them, when they controlled both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue for six of the eight Bush years from 2000-2008.

I like Huckabee, probably because he sounds the most upbeat, charming, and humorous of the GOP bigwigs, while Crist is the executive of a major state and seems to have some gravitas and sensitivity mixed in with his Republican credentials. Assuming neither gets caught up in some type of political mess, or in Crist’s case run for the Senate in 2010, they could be an attractive GOP ticket in 2012.

Rush and Annie??

What do you have when Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter speak to the same audience?

Two decent sized people, if he could give her about 50 of his extra pounds.

CPAC crowds were entertained by this duo, which wowed them by saying outrageous things about the Democrats, President Obama, and the media. All of which are fair game for the Right.

But, IMO, speeches by these two agitator-extremists just drive support to the Democrats. I wish the conservatives and their GOP friends would book Rush and Annie at every primo event and venue.

Maloni 3-2-2009


Anonymous said...

I agree with you in that the GOP has to re-invent itself, and fight for all Americans rather than their own interests. Also, it seems that Rush Limbaugh has become a leading symbol for the Republican party but also a toxic dilemma.
- Blue Agent
PS What do you think of the new government program to help mortgagees in distress? The new rules will allow a mortgagee (underwater) to refinance without having to pay MI, despite the LTV ratio, will this affect the MI business?

Bill Maloni said...

I like the initiative and, as I will be writing, it seems Fannie and Freddie are in the middle of it (which to me is a policy positive!!), both with their own loans, but--potentially--some of the others that the federal government is acquiring.

The latter will be a step toward efficiency that noty often is the hallmark of government, espeically since the federal government is ill equipped to manage all of these bad loans and mortgage backed secuities.

I have asked some "MI friends" to tell me the significance of a Lockhart letter to Suzanne Hutchison of the Mortgage Insurance Companies of America, which seems to permit Fannie and Freddie to employ "yield spread accounts" in lieu of traditional MI.

That can't be good for the MI industry, from a revenue perspective, but someone did point out to me that many of these loans would be of the "toxic waste" variety and possibly not loans the MIs would want to insure.
But, alternatives to MI have a way of sticking around when economic matters right themselves.

Re Limbaugh:

For the GOP to fall into the Dems trap and respond to the silly--but politically cloying-- suggestion that Limbaugh is the leader of the party shows how confused the Republican party is.

It's tough but the R's should ignore it and let the "Rush Defense" come from Rush and not the GOP establishment.

The GOP can/should be the loyal opposition, but attack with new ideas and new aproaches to solving the problems which affect us all, not by defending a radio personality who has to be loving all of the attention he's getting (which. IMO, is not helping the Republican party).

Anonymous said...

Isn't it about time for F&F to give up the idea that there is a need for them to have separate programs and processes? I'm looking at how the two of them are introducing the administration's streamlined refi plan. Fannie has a DU-oriented approach while Freddie has a manual underwriting approach. These program differences serve only to create needless complexity. Further, their pricing differences, whereby Fannie is charging delivery fees that Freddie isn't, highlights the absurdity that these companies should in any way be competing with each other.

Bill Maloni said...

Without sounding too (inside baseball)," I think you'll begin to see the uniformity you're seeking, plus greater use of the two comnpanies by the government.

The bizarre thing is that it's not their (F&F) call. They now are creatures of OFHEO/FHFA and Treasury.