Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Rescue on Main Street

Frustration and anger are two feelings that come bubbling forth from my gut as I watch the drama unfold in regard to the rescue plan for our financial system being deliberated before my eyes. At the heart of the matter sit the two Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSE's) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The utter disregard for the facts by the mainstream television and print media, Barney Frank and Christopher Dodd completely amazes me.

The implicit guarantee of government backing for mortgage securities peddled by the two GSE's, as they operated under the guise of "providing affordable housing", gave them the ability to enjoy lower interest rates on their bonds, which in turn allowed them to prevail over private companies providing mortgage backed securities. The increased leverage, lack of competition and tacit approval of their operations by politicians receiving campaign contributions through their lobbying efforts allowed their CEO, Franklin Raines, to earn over 100 million dollars, before being ousted for accounting irregularities. Now Frank and Dodd are trying to position themselves as champions of Main Street, while the financial system grinds to a halt. For a more in depth analysis of the Fannie & Freddie debacle, see the articles in the Wall Street Journal and Investors Business Daily from Tuesday, September 23, 2008.

Ben Bernancke was elevated to Federal Reserve Chairman because he was respected for his knowledge and credentials. Hank Paulson was called upon to be Treasury Secretary because of his knowledge of the financial markets. If they are this concerned about the current crisis in our financial system, I think we better stop with the politics and soberly address the situation. This is NOT a bailout of Wall Street, but rather a rescue of our financial system. If the stock market is halved again in this decade, the pain on Main Street will be devastating. We all enjoyed the rising equity in real estate from 2002 through 2006, but the sad reality is much of it was based on smoke and mirrors. Perhaps this will usher in an era of building wealth methodically through investing, rather than the get rich quick schemes of day trading, real estate flipping and other fads which have led to bubbles and busts. One could only hope!

John H. Kaighn

Jersey Benefits Advisors

The Kaighn Report