Alan Zibel writes in the Wall Street Journal:
Earlier this year, leading House Republicans proposed to privatize mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac or place them in receivership starting in two years.
Now, as Republicans prepare to assume control of the House next week, they aren’t in as big a rush, cautioning that withdrawing government support in the housing market should be gradual.
“We recognize that some things can be done overnight and other things can’t be,” said Rep. Scott Garrett (R., N.J.), incoming chairman of the House Financial Services subcommittee, which oversees Fannie and Freddie. “You have to recognize what the impact would be on the fragile housing market as it stands right now.”
I actually don’t think the mortgage market will ever be truly a private sector enterprise. Suppose Fannie and Freddie were to go away: the most likley entities to step into the residential finance market would be banks. Would this be privitization? Not really. Banks receive explicit guarantees (FDIC) and, as we know from recent events, implicit guarantees as well (TARP was nothing if not the execution of an implicit Federal guarantee).
The conservative complaint about Fannie Mae (FNMA) and Freddie Mac (FMCC) is that they privatized profit while socializing risk. This is doubtless true. I just don’t see how it is any less true for banks.
Update: Just to be clear, I am all for FDIC, and I think on net TARP left the country better off. The point is that we will always rely on the public sector to some extent, whether some people like it or not.