Last week, Congress passed a housing bill that gave the Treasury Department a blank check to inject billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars into mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, snatching them from insolvency. To accommodate this blank check, Congress obligingly raised its debt ceiling by $800 billion. Ouch! That's nearly a trillion dollars. Why was it necessary to incur this potentially crippling public debt to bail out two completely private, for-profit behemoths, which have run themselves into bankruptcy with their own risky investment schemes? Policymakers said it was essential to maintain the country's creditworthiness with foreign lenders, which today hold about one-fifth of Fannie and Freddie securities. According to a July 21 report by Heather Timmons in The New York Times:
One out of 10 American mortgages is, in effect, in the hands of institutions and governments outside the United States.1
Ten percent of American mortgages are now owned by foreigners? Doesn't that defeat the whole purpose of Fannie Mae (the Federal National Mortgage Association) and Freddie Mac (the Federal Home Mortgage Corporation)? They were supposedly set up to fund "the American dream" – home ownership by Americans. Today, American homes are owned by anonymous pools of private investors, many of whom are foreign governments and foreign central banks. How did we manage to give away the farm? And why are we bowing to the interests of foreign investors to the point of driving our own government into bankruptcy? The federal debt is already nearly ten trillion dollars, more than the government can ever possibly repay with taxes.
According to analysts, the bailout of the two mortgage giants is necessary "because America's relations with a host of countries are intricately tied to Fannie and Freddie," and because we need to assure "Americans' future ability to gain access to credit. If foreign companies and governments abandon United States investments, home, auto and credit card loans will be much more difficult to come by."2
The same sort of argument was once made by U.S. banks to get Third World countries to pay up on their foreign loans. The U.S., it seems, has finally achieved Third World debtor-nation status. For the last half century, the push for "free trade" has been all about preserving profitable opportunities for investment, finding ways to "make money" without actually making anything, exploiting the work of others by buying up corporations around the world and drawing profits off the top. But now the tables have turned. We have gone from being the world's largest creditor to the world's largest debtor. We spent our dollars abroad and now they are coming back to shop for our own real estate and corporate assets. Timmons observes:
Asian institutions and investors hold some $800 billion in securities issued by Fannie and Freddie, the bulk of that in China and Japan.
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