Monday, January 30, 2017

Twists and Turns of GSE Life Inside the Beltway

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— 
because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— 
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) was a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.

“Groundhog Day?” & “Groundhog Day?”

I just could slug in my last set of GSE comments, i.e. “it’s all about Steve Mnuchin’s approval in the Senate” and be done with this blog segment, especially since that event is pending.

A Mnuchin vote in the Senate Finance Committee, reportedly, is set for tonight (Monday) and, if successful, should clear the way for his full Senate vote soon after, possibly before week’s end.

That will be a crucial first step in righting the GSE ship—and a major one—but our fight hardly is over.

As we’ve all seen—through eight years of Conservatorship--with the Congress, Obama Administration, the Conservative think tanks, media, business, building and financial trade association opponents, and other advocates for diminishing if not destroying the GSEs, the Fannie/Freddie “shit wall” in DC is high and deep, carefully constructed and well maintained by legions.

They ain’t giving up and they will pour like ants from the woodwork the minute anything GSE-positive occurs, peddling their reborn stories and fresh allegations—employing their usual political sycophants!

The terrain has gotten a little better—thanks to the exposure brought by a lot of new actively communicating voices, especially Fannie’s former CFO Tim Howard and his excellent blog, Investors Unite, and “White Ghost,” who authors GSE Links--and the many plaintiffs lawyers and their superb briefs, i.e. see Chuck Cooper and Hamish Hume, and others.

Steve Mnuchin at Treasury could facilitate the improvement, heavily, but with solid footholds in both congressional chambers, media, the paid lobbying community, etc. etc. the trick bag, delays, forced compromises, obfuscation, demand the Trump Administration’s most resolute, determined, non-deviating actions to resurrect Fannie and Freddie and allow them to do their job.

IMO, the ironic political flip side to this active pro-GSE strategy is that it will end up bathing the new Trump White House in consumer glory with the very people to whom he vaguely promised so very much.

The nation’s TBTF banks and their allies still will do well, as they always have when the GSEs were ascendant, and, indeed, as they have over the past eight years.

But the fresh delivery of copious amounts of GSE market shaped mortgage finance liquidity to all corners of the US, in fair and equitable ways, will—as it should if Mnuchin et al follow through—be political manna falling into Donald Trump’s lap. I hope he “grabs it!” (A little humor there.)

That will be the Trump Admin’s major reward and with very little cost, if the proper GSE regulation and capitalization is put in place.
Perversely, it will exactly be the gilded legacy which Barack Obama turned his back in the past year.

I haven’t’ gotten a good answer yet when I ask, “Who at DoJ is making their procedural decisions regarding the many GSE lawsuits and to what end?”

I know Senator Sessions (R-Ala.) still is awaiting Senate blessing as the new AG, but the former Obama crew or Justice Department careerists can’t/shouldn’t be making ritual GSE policy, absent direction.

Trump, Trump, Trump

I’m agog with the multitude of DJT pronouncements and actions in his first 10 days in office and am trying—as I promised—to see if I am missing any Trump brilliance inside the china shop destruction he’s conducting.


First off, he should drop the inaugural crowd issue. Few Americans, one way or the other, care. It was what it was. From someone who lives in the area, the crowd was small.

Voting Review and Analysis

Yes. I’d love to see a thorough review/analysis of last November’s voting activity, but done by a Select Committee of Congress, not the White House or a sitting congressional committee because of the possibility of those last two results would being discounted as “fake news.”


Have you talked to your wife and in-laws—who once lived very close to Russia (and the then Soviet Union)--asking what she thinks of Russia’s government, rule of law, international integrity, fairness, and reliability when dealing with us, the world’ s greatest democracy, as we all like to brag?

Also, ask Ivanka and Jared Kushner, if you haven’t already, what serious Jews think of Russia, its history of generational corruption, shortages, pogroms, cut throat,  and crazy politics where death often accompanies opposition to the central authority and then share with the nation what they tell you if it changes your rosy Putin view?

You may be a deal maker, but Vlad is a killer, who doesn’t care about those across the table from him, no matter how rich he gets from new hotels and golf courses in Russia.

Oh, and Steve Bannon is a very dangerous person, who should be kept at arm’s length if not quarantined.

The Wall and Tariffs

Please note the better approach to Southern border security which the Senate approved two years ago, but at which the House R’s balked. They cost the nation, then.

What the GOP Senate did—with D support--made more sense but, frankly, there’s no wall you can build high enough that desperate people can breech, go over or under.

Mexico’s a huge trading partner and despite your campaign rhetoric and the 1950’s appeal for “Fortress America,” you can’t time travel back be try and build it in an era when there is so much international commerce that relies on accessible borders and free cross border trade.

When other nations retaliate, on whom will you blame their logical response and the plummeting appeal of Trump products?
As a major exporter, we’re vulnerable.


OK, you made a campaign promise and now you are following through, based on what you think you see happening in Europe and elsewhere and trying to keep from America the people you believe are responsible for civilian carnage and terrorist attacks, plus paying a little religious politics to appeal to you know who/what.

But, there are meat axes and there are scalpels. There is unintended consequences and there is deft.

Yes, we have more nukes, but we’ve always had more. The coming conflicts are not going to be fought—I hope—with nuclear weapons.
Are you looking sufficiently enough at who—possibly those already in the US—may be so discouraged or incensed by your well-meant, albeit, clumsy actions “go rogue” and commit the very acts you are trying to prevent, as well as how the nation’s international allies see your actions?

BTW, the Kremlin apparatchiks are applauding your immigration stand, dapping to one another (ask Omarosa), and gleefully slapping themselves on the back; ditto ISIS and Al Queda.

Here’s an excerpt from one editorial NYT comment on President’s latest actions:

The order lacks any logic. It invokes the attacks of Sept. 11 as a rationale, while exempting the countries of origin of all the hijackers who carried out that plot and also, perhaps not coincidentally, several countries where the Trump family does business. The document does not explicitly mention any religion, yet it sets a blatantly unconstitutional standard by excluding Muslims while giving government officials the discretion to admit people of other faiths.
The order’s language makes clear that the xenophobia and Islamophobia that permeated Mr. Trump’s campaign are to stain his presidency as well. Un-American as they are, they are now American policy. “The United States must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles,” the order says, conveying the spurious notion that all Muslims should be considered a threat. (It further claims to spare America from people who would commit acts of violence against women and those who persecute people on the basis of race, gender or sexual orientation. A president who bragged about sexually assaulting women and a vice president who has supported policies that discriminate against gay people might well fear that standard themselves.)

(Read Senators John McCain’s (R-NM) and Lindsay Graham’s (R-SC) Sunday night statement, too. These are not partisan Democrats.)

Maloni, 1-30-2017

Monday, January 16, 2017

2017 is on us with a lot at stake

New Year 2017—Hope for the Best, Prepare for Something Less Than

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— 
because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— 
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) was a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.

Benjamin Franklin: “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”

(Maloni: The above are messages to all Americans in what may be unsettling times. Be resolute. Our nation’s founding principles never should be compromised or surrendered to any person or for any cause.)

GSE Good News and Bad News

One of the best Fannie/Freddie developments of late are the plethora out there of high quality GSE articles, reports, and blogs which increasingly are being read and commented on (again, check GSE Links for most/all of them). First and foremost, among those, are “the real” Tim Howard’s blog and responses to questions.

In the Congress, initially, it’s all about the Mnuchin hearings due to occur this Thursday before the Senate Finance Committee (but not Senate Banking).  He’ll face some challenges.
As others have written and most know, Mnuchin has a plan to return the GSEs to private ownership and some degree of management driven operation, as opposed to run by the Federal Housing Finance Agency and the US Treasury.

If he gets approved by the Senate, then Mnuchin should be primed to put into place his ideas.
Some D’s will play partisan roles and, in addition to Wall Street hassles,  Mnuchin could encounter Fannie/Freddie opponents—opposed to GSE resurrection-- because they want to see the GSE’s annual revenues freed up for big banks if/when F&F are dismantled.

Steve Mnuchin faces an uphill fight, having little to do with his smarts and financial experience. The D’s need, desperately, to knock off one of the Trump appointees to show they can. (Although some possibly deeply personal news—in Legal Schnauzer-- trickling out last week about Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) could serve that purpose.)

If SM doesn’t win approval, it’s not a good thing for the GSEs and a Trump setback, although a replacement TSY Secy could pick up the GSE cudgels if that’s what President Trump wants.
But, Mnuchin’s situation may get overtaken when President Trump and his Treasury team have to decide—beginning in the following week—on another pending GSE matter, i.e. whether to keep opposing release of 11,000 likely politically embarrassing federal documents the Obama DoJ has tried to block in Judge Margaret Sweeney’s Court of Claims.

Looming behind it is the pending Appeals Court case involving the original Lamberth decision, blessing the “sweep.”

So we may soon hear about several major GSE developments.

Also not “news” or very startling, but a pain in the ass (especially for those who thought Mnuchin’s nomination was all the pro-GSE side needed) is there are a lot of anti-GSE types populating the transition teams, with many of them expecting to get second tier jobs in the Trump Cabinet agencies.

Someone needs to keep an eye on those potential; troublemakers.

Trump’s Presidency: An early look,
Which I hope changes once DT’s comfy

I suspect in the coming Trump Administration “post-fact” years I will be accused of being overly dramatic or possibly too critical of Trump and the GOP controlled Senate and House. I likely will lose some readers, too, because to the extent I have readers, I understand they want GSE discussion first and, maybe some politics second.

But, without blaming either the new folks in town or the outgoing D’s, collectively they’ve contributed to a devaluation of truth and facts, creating an era where individuals need to be personally responsible for ferreting out right and wrong. We all must be active not passive in our analyses.

No longer can we rely on the media, alone, to help us as they face the same challenges and Tweet threats.

So, without building too high a blog soap box, in my commentary I will try and separate wheat from chaff and point people in certain directions, making clear my motives and reasoning.

That’s my 2017 pledge.

DJT Hot Button: I have to start with stating Donald Trump appears incapable of handling any sort of challenge or disagreement without deprecating his critics.
Further, his amazing insecurity--having amassed so much money, power, including winning the presidency which nobody will take from him—still forces him to project his self-doubt by shouting to the world everything he is, has, or thinks is “great” and that all of his critics deserved for be Twitter bombed for being losers, bad, old, overrated, or worse.

DJ Hot Button: Is he so insecure in his own skin that nobody in any part of our society can challenge him on anything? That is pretty scary, but it’s hard to see him reacting in any other manner than he has in the weeks leading up to his inauguration.

Margaret Sullivan, writing about the PEOTUS in today’s Washington Post;

That Trump will be what columnist Frida Ghitis of the Miami Herald calls “the gaslighter in chief” — that he will pull out all the stops to make people think that they should believe him, not their own eyes. (“Gaslighting” is a reference to the 1940s movie in which a manipulative husband psychologically abuses his wife by denying the reality that the gaslights in their home are growing dimmer and dimmer.)
“The techniques,” Ghitis wrote, “include saying and doing things and then denying it, blaming others for misunderstanding, disparaging their concerns as oversensitivity, claiming outrageous statements were jokes or misunderstandings, and other forms of twilighting the truth.”

DJT Hot Button: He hasn’t shown any signs of intellectual challenge, just retaliatory bombast.

I truly hope that when his cabinet gets in place, he will step back and let these people, many of whom seem intellectually and morally superior to him, do their jobs—as he promises he will—and not interfere unless it’s clear they are violating legal, Constitutional, or long held US policy principles.

I want him to surprise me. I want him to force me to write, “I was wrong and underestimated Donald Trump’s capacity to be a good US President.” I want him to show me he cares about low income Americans of all ethnicities and can perform on an international stage and—with staff assistance—can understand domestic issues.

DJT Hot Button: I am haunted by the feeling that but President Trump won’t have the political/policy sensitivity and sekel” (Yiddish: prudence, insight, common sense) to do the hard work of driving positive sustainable change for the vast majority of Americans, i.e. “his pledge is “make America Great Again”.

He’s also has named a ton of chiefs, i.e. billionaires, generals, lions of industry and commerce, who are not the best disciples, lining up behind a peripatetic leader and do things his way. They are used to doing things their way. That’s how they succeeded, by following their instincts and guts.
I’ve never seen a panoply of so many elites in a single political cabinet (assuming all/most get approved).
This past week Trump WH press secretary, Sean Spicer, proclaimed all these cabinet giants would “follow President Trump.” The next day PEOTUS Trump said he wants his appointments “to say and do what they think.” Begin to see the problem?


A Few Words about Russia and Putin

One of my favorite themes/worries is Russia and Vladimir Putin, because I have history on my side.
DJT Very Hot Button: Given all the Trump family/campaign lies about Russia, how can any of those individuals or his “yes men/women” look our nation with a straight face and say Putin and his goons weren't working for Trump’s election and acted on that objective or that no business discussions with Putin/Russia have been going on for years?

I am thinking of Kellyanne “Conwoman,” who after declaring that if she took a high profile Washington job, her four children never would brush their teeth in the morning or get to school on time, six days before she took a high powered Washington job. (That five Pinocchio’s, right there, KC.) Oh, and poor Conway kids.

Does anyone think the happy Russian officials would have been so happy if HRC won?

The Russians are giving Trump crumbs from their table and he’s going to loosen US sanction against the Oligarch Putin and his thugs?

Here’s some of what columnist Nicholas Kristoff said about on Trump and Russia in yesterday’s Sunday NYT: 

“So what’s going on?
“The most important question is simply why our president-elect has been so determined to side with Russia — undermining his own intelligence community as he does so. Perhaps it’s a genuine if naïve attempt to “reset” relations. But, oops, new presidents have tried that before, and it fails each time.
“The Trump view is so far from the foreign policy mainstream that inevitably there will be darker theories offered for the softness toward Russia. These involve financial ties with Moscow, since Trump refuses to release his tax statements, or the kind of sordid blackmail alleged in the dossier.
“Such rumors may well be wrong and unfair — but they persist. They damage Trump, the intelligence community and the United States itself, and the best disinfectant will be transparency. That means congressional inquiries, led by Republicans, and a continued F.B.I. investigation.”
DJT Hot Button: Sorry, but I believe DJT, the businessman—who still dominates, not the US President--is all about the $$$.

Those dozen new hotels he and his sons have been desperate to open in Russian certainly won’t provide much needed jobs to those out of work miners in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio, which they will need even more when the GOP cuts off their access to health insurance.

As noted, I am guardedly hopeful he’ll still can make good on job-generating campaign rhetoric. It still is early in the Trump Admin’s life, and I promise to speak up, as loud as I can, and tout any policy successes DJT drives.

But, I’ll also point to any screw up Trump makes and remind his supporters if those actions represent broken election promises, corporate giveaways, or just naked Trump family wealth accumulation owing to daddy's new job.

If misbehaves across the board and generates a backlash from those who voted for him, it could make all of this unique partisan/personal headhunting, drama, anger, hostility, preening and egotism worth the inevitable fights.

But as Don, Eric, and the family advisors sweep up all of the inevitable coins thrown Trump Inc.’s way--owing to the President’s win--can DJT keep the nation strong, out of nuclear war, a functioning democracy for all Americans, and remember all of those to whom he promised "wonderful and huge" new jobs, added income, and other goodies for displaced Southern, Midwestern, and Eastern Rust Belt residents, in return for their November votes.

To whom will his voters bitch, when a dozen or so new Trump Russian hotels open—plus whatever “deals’ come down to the kids—and they don’t produce many domestic jobs.

I hope those coal miners and their kids remember those unfulfilled Trump promises especially if they begin losing their health insurance on the planned GOP cutbacks with no substitute coverage in place?

Maloni, 1-16-2017