Today, We All Are Charlie Hebdo
And, Unfortunately, We All are France
We can’t take any solace that Muslim zealots struck in France, because the United States faces many of the same challenges and risks. We have our own sizeable Muslim population in the US and possibly a few of them are ISIS sympathetic or worse.
We also are home to lots of our own non-Muslim fanatics and true believers
The Paris events were despicable acts carried out by religiously zealots motivated by hatred. Someone will try to ape the French atrocities and, likely, there might be copycat killings and what better country to generate the publicity radical religionists crave than the United States, the original Muslim “Great Satan?”
The French Muslim killers used military weapons rare in Europe but easy to acquire in the US. Two months ago I had those thoughts, long before last week’s attack on the satirical magazine and the kosher deli, when my sons took me to a Las Vegas shooting gallery and we fired a variety of historic and contemporary automatic weapons, all of which were for sale in the adjoining gun store.
As a nation and people, we need to stay alert and mindful crap can and does happen here.
Now batting, President Barack Obama…..
As most baseball fans know, you get three strikes and you are out. You can hit a dozen foul balls, but if you swing and miss or the umpire calls a pitch a “strike,” you are done until a future at bat.
When it comes to Fannie and Freddie issues, Barack Obama seems to get about a dozen pitches—swinging and missing at most of those—yet he stays at home plate still flailing away, still nearly hitless and the pitches keep coming.
It’s not crafty GOP hurler throwing it past him, but his own self-created tableaus where he gets the pitch he wants but still whiffs. (Think of your uncle or your father throwing you batting practice.)
Dropping the baseball metaphor, take last week’s much touted Obama speech in Phoenix (“Please,” as Groucho Marx or Henny Youngman might have said—look them up, kids!).
Admin news leaks set up the world to expect some executive action (there’s that phrase, again, which means it doesn’t require the Congress to acquiesce) cutting FHA insurance premiums and the President didn’t disappoint; he announced a collective 50 basis points (a half percent) FHA front end fee cut.
The GOP—those that noticed--hissed and booed as the “housers” cheered. But if BHO’s Phoenix speech, reducing FHA costs, helped Thursday’s 325 point stock market surge—as a few industry folks suggested--just think what would happen if the President announced he was freeing F&F from conservatorship??
That directive would have significantly drivenup homebuyer and system user expectations, jacked up stock prices of every mortgage lending bank, homebuilder, Realtor/developer, and industry related company—and with all the associated jobs, wages, and revenue and development imbedded in that promise, also might have improved the nation’s near/long term economic prospects.
Strike Six—Why Hold Back Mr. President?
But, no, he passed. Yes, it would piss off the GOP and send them to the courts and committees screaming for blood?
President Obama, if they don’t have the 60 votes to stop you, what’s your reluctance?
I mean, which Democrat political constituencies would not welcome news that carefully regulated conventional home buying resources—along with your FHA move--would now be unshackled allowing credit worthy families to purchase a house and possibly accrue their first family generational wealth?
If done properly any new revenue you permitted F&F to keep would create a capital buffer protecting taxpayers. There are no major shareholders who can lay claim to earnings, at least until the courts decide those matters.
The untaken F&F act would have glossed your legacy and prove that Fannie is good things beyond shaping national security advisers (!)
But, Mighty Casey Obama swung and missed. Instead he repeated for GOP consumption some never to be reciprocated political pabulum about (Maloni paraphrasing) “happy to work with this new Congress to take down Fannie and Freddie and give the world to the TBTF banks.”
Looking at the mortgage front disarray—and knowing that SBC Chairman Dick Shelby (R-Ala.), Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) don’t want to take on F &F matters this year or even next, a very smart Washington observer noted, “So the president is just talking to himself. Crazy that he doesn't do for housing what he is doing for immigration. Who persuaded him that the GSEs were the root of all evil?”
Or as another friend said, ruefully, “Yep, with that comment about working with the Hill R’s on GSE reform, he told all the Dem leadership and civil rights groups--which already said no GSE bill--that he's ready to negotiate with Jeb (Hensarling, R-Tex.) and Chairman Shelby on handing the mortgage market to the TBTF banks.”
One More Obama Screw Up?
While on the subject, why in the Hell wasn’t Obama or Mrs. O in Paris, showing support, along with the rest of the world leaders? Was that a diplomatic “mooning” or what? I hope AIPAC and its allies noticed because many others did!
Our ambassador to France, Jane Hartley, represented the United States. That is part of her job, but Ms. Hartley should have had some heavy hitter backups.
(Historical/personal/professional note: When she was a few years out of college and part of the Carter Administration, Jane Hartley used to lobby me and others as a senior of HUD’s congressional liaison team. Several years later, she married Ralph Schlosstein, who—fresh from the University of Pittsburgh with his MBA—briefly toiled for the Pittsburgh Congressman Bill Moorhead, when I did the same. Ralph later wound up at Treasury and then went to Wall Street when he, Larry Fink and others put together the fabulously successful BlackRock group. Later Ralph founded his own investment firm, Evercore Partners. Ralph and Jane were/are major Obama contributors and fundraisers.)
Here Come the TBTF Plunderers
As the WH twiddles its thumbs and Treasury’s Jack Lew sends out op-eds, the TBTF banks hope to gouge away anything remaining of the Dodd-Frank law which once sought to handcuff parts of Wall Street.
After striking late in last years’ end of the session budget bill, relaxing federal regulatory control, the big guys, procedurally, came up short last week in the House on a package of pro-bank regulatory relief bills.
They will try, again, in the House this week with easier rules applying and they’ll succeed. (See Morgenson article later.)
The nation’s largest financial institutions paid this Administration well over $225 Billion in financial regulatory fines. And this is the group that President Obama thinks will deal a fair hand to American consumers, whether its home mortgages, personal loans, or car and student loans???
Coming Invasion of Investors Unite
The Capitol Hill visits from Investors Unite affiliates Tuesday and Wednesday, engaging their Senators, House members, their staffs, and media should provide reads whether F&F issues, including the “takings” court cases, are taking hold with anyone up there.
We’ve reported on reasons for generic optimism-- President Obama in Phoenix notwithstanding--and the political and substantive impracticality of GOP alternatives, but talking with elected officials who sit on the SBC and HBC—or their assistants—will freshen the intelligence.
As I counseled a few IU-ers, it’s a marathon not a sprint, so be prepare to contact and visit the Hill denizens again and again, as these issues will not easily resolve themselves, as recent history suggests.
It’s worth noting that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is positioning herself to be a major player on all these matters, especially where the big bank interests concentrate.
She seems to be the only member in either chamber truly exercised about the package of bank regulatory relief issues which the House will take up and pass this week. Maybe in the new Senate minority, she can show more clout.
Will This GOP Leopard Change His Spots?
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell didn’t breathe life into his promises to engage in a different tone and set of practices when, officially, he became Majority Leader last week, as the Washington Post reports. Maybe Mitch just was having a bad day and plans to unveil a new, happier, less confrontational “Mean Mitch” on some other day?
In contrast, Speaker John Boehner towed the more moderate line.
What Others are Saying?
Speaking about Investors Unite, there will be a GSE hero among them Tuesday and Wednesday, when prolific writer David Fiderer joins with the group.
DF’s work graced the National Mortgage News twice in recent weeks, skewering Peter Wallison (really Peter, you told the Congress “that?” about Ed Pinto’s work) and Ed DeMarco.IU-ers in town, make sure you say “Hi” to the “Hebrew Hammer.”
Gretchen Morgenson warns Dodd-Frank fans that the GOP is coming in her Sunday NYT column.
Tim Mayopoulos, Fannie’s CEO, surprised many—for his determination and aggressive posturing—when, speaking in Atlanta, he extolled Fannie (and Freddie) and warned against dramatically changing the mortgage finance system.
(Totally shocked/surprised were the sleeping “Freddie’s,” who prefer the “hunker down, smile, and don’t piss off anybody” CEO Don Layton approach.) Quick, someone put a mirror under Don’s nose!
Mortgage Bankers Say…..
The MBA’s David Stevens—who, depending on the direction of the wind or the day the week, opposes what Mayopoulis supports then decided that anyone seeking GSE recapitalization—as I and others do-- was “cartoonish,” as he was quoted by Inside Mortgage Finance; that is until Stevens walked back his statement the next day.
“Well paid chameleon,” was one Stevens descriptor I heard after his flip-flop or, just maybe, DS got called by some of his smaller association members who like working with F&F and want them around, say, through God’s lifetime.
NYT’s Maureen Dowd “highlights” (pun?) Speaker Boehner in her weekly column, with a tongue in cheek but not too inaccurate story.
A Congressional Dilemma!
Fannie and Freddie’s annual revenue now shuttled to the Treasury’s General Fund, easily, could cover President Obama’s $60 Billion, 10 year estimated cost of providing free community college tuition to every American high school grad who wants to go.
GOP Congress: “Let’s see do we kill F&F and give the entire mortgage market—and all the revenue--to the TBTF banks or do we use F&F revenues to fund free community college for all eligible high school graduates?”
GOP Congress: “Nope, banks will do more for us then all of those smarter better prepared kids.
Oil’s economic winners and loser, as per Al-Jazerra.