Monday, February 18, 2013

Let's Watch the AEI and Them Fight
But The “Them” is Growing Larger

There is juicy squabble emerging between the friends and foes of the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).

Historically, a fight between conservatives and “housers” meant war over Fannie and Freddie. That was yesterday and still might come the day after tomorrow, but the current scrap pits the energized Right against the more mundane FHA program at HUD and it's defenders.

With a bit of license, I'll set up the dispute—metaphorically, as a prize fight announcer might--and later note how it's beginning to attract some media heavyweights.

Ladies and gentleman.

In the “veddy, veddy black” corner, wearing black trunks, you have Ed Pinto of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

In full pugnacity, Ed has been snapping, snarling, and feigning punches all evening and that just was in the AEI van ride to the arena. Ed recently testified in the House and has been quoted in numerous articles objecting to various FHA activities and operations and has been living large in the limelight.

Pinto is managed by AEI's now restrained Peter Wallison, himself a veteran of many contentious bouts, including a vainglorious stint on the President's Financial Inquiry Commission (FCIC) where he riled commissioners and staff trying to jam Pinto's Fannie/Freddie research down their throats.

In it's final comprehensive report the Commission rejected Pinto work and did so by name, so nobody could misunderstand its resistance to Pinto-thought.

Wallison, reportedly contemplating self-immolation, just leaked the Commission report early and issued (natty, natty, boo, boo”) critical comments.

Peter apparently has chosen, temporarily I am sure, to stay away from Pinto's jihad and ease into lower profile Pinto-management.

Pinto's trainers include the many House Republicans, “Jed-led” by House Financial Services Chairman Hensarling (R-Tex), some adoring think tanks, and a few gullible media.

The FHA is the rather dull gray humdrum target, which most people ignore, save some GOP antagonists. But its battles are being fought, by a broad housing industry coalition.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) leads this phalanx, which includes the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) , the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) and a variety of small association and interest groups which believe that lower income American families, with less pristine credit profiles, still deserve a shot at owning their own home.
It's not a coincidence that the AEI onslaught forced the pro-FHA forces to gird their loins and find a willing “David” to battle the conservative Goliath.
For this latest brawl, the coalition's veteran hard puncher is David Fiderer, a wizened New York international financial analyst, whose work on Enron, Fannie and Freddie, and now the FHA has begun to catch fire with readers everywhere, as I'll soon note.

Fiderer will wear red-white-and blue, fight out of the white corner, likely with the sun rising over his beefy, broad shoulders.

Fiderer is desperate to rumble with the supremely well funded  AEI (think Koch brothers money),  itself desperate for a win over advocates of an ongoing federal mortgage finance role.

As a backdrop to this fight, Fiderer volunteered and chose to take on Pinto--the AEI punching machine--in the only way the AEI understands, nose-to-nose, lightning bolt for lightning bolt, and armed only with  “David's sling of truth,” full of deadly and irrefutable “smooth stone facts,” gleaned from federal sources.

Pinto is pugnacious, fears nobody, and boldly has twice publicly ridiculed major full page NAR ads in which the milion member trade group believes are the FHA's signature mortgage guaranty program positives. (Psst, Ed, we used to say that every congressional distriict seemd to have at least a thousand Realtors in each, likely more.)

Fiderer's  posse claims their man intends to pummel Pinto, or as they say in some of FHA's urban neighborhoods, “He wants to *&^%$* over that ^#%$#!”

Okay, metaphor ends.

In last week's blog, I suggested that Ed's high profile attack on the Realtor's ad brought way more focus to his opponent's ad and could bring unwanted attention to him, since he was well know for his slipshod Fannie and Freddie research, which earned him and intellectual/policy beat down.

That same predictable effect seems to be coalescing now--only faster--as Pinto last week generated major rebuttals from folks not traditionally associated with home building, home sales, or mortgage finance camps. (Links following this segment).

It's not a good week for Pinto or the AEI when your arguments and positions get attacked or ridiculed directly and indirectly by David Fiderer in Op Ed News, the NYT's Paul Krugman, the Wall Street Journal's Nick Timiraos, syndicated financial writer Barry Ritholz, the Roosevelt Institute’s Mike Konczal in the Washington Post's “Wonk Blog,” ProPublica's Jesse Eisenger's, and syndicated real estate writer and W Post columnist Ken Harney, and editors of the Columbia Journalism Review.

I may have missed one or two, but, somehow Pinto's Jeb Hensarling kudos don't balance being shot down by this many media heavy hitters.

Links to last week's critical commentary on Pinto/AEI Positions, starting with David Fiderer's attention getting  posting.

-David Fiderer (Pinto is “bat shit” crazy!!)

Read this piece by David Fiderer, who calls out the American Enterprise Institute’s Edward Pinto, who along with Peter Wallison, has been the primary force behind the Big Lie, noting how he has recently taken in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and others with misleading claims about the Federal Housing Administration.”
--Mike Konczal, a fellow with the Roosevelt Institute
Wonkblog: No, Marco Rubio, government did not cause the housing crisis

(Maloni note: Konczal's piece also references previous rejections of the AEI/Pinto/Wallison charges.)
--Jesse Eisinger
--Barry Ritholz    

--Ken Harney

Nick Timiraos, WSJ

Mortgages, Ed Pinto, and a vast conspiracy of silence: … “Check out that first chart. Hilarious stuff.”

Maloni, 2-18-2013


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