For nearly five years, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have operated under federal conservatorship. A number of observers, including lawmakers on Capitol Hill, think that's too long. What's more, they want to pull the plug on the mortgage giants' existence. On June 25, Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Mark Warner, D-Va., introduced a bill, the Housing Finance Reform and Taxpayer Protection Act of 2013 (S. 1217), that would replace these companies with a new insurance-based system. Supporters champion the legislation as a way to protect the public from future bailouts and promote more home mortgage lending.
The US Chamber of Commerce's "On the Road with Free Enterprise" tour has quietly entered its second month. The main story currently on the "Free Enterprise" website is a piece titled "First Ever Sushi Tech Combats Fish Fraud." The fact that General Motors is hypocritically co-sponsoring a free enterprise tour might bring to mind the words fishy and fraud as well.
"Beneath the deep purple cuts of healthy tuna and the smell of fresh wasabi, there lies a sushi underbelly in America that will make your stomach turn," reads the first line of the all-important "fish fraud" story. Likewise, GM's anti-free enterprise bailout process exhibited an underbelly of political cronyism that turned the stomach of those (like GM bondholders and Delphi non-union retirees) who saw there rights subordinated to the politically-favored UAW.
A retirement plan supposedly is an excellent reason for joining a union. Yet a March report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office reveals chronic underfunding and potential insolvency of pension plans involving a union and two or more private-sector employers within the same industry. The insurance fund covering these "multiemployer" plans, run by a federal agency, Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), "would be exhausted in about two to three years if projected insolvencies of either of two large plans occur in the next 10 to 20 years." The study follows a January PBGC report projecting "current premiums ultimately will be inadequate to maintain benefit guarantee levels."
The Free Enterprise site chronicles the "Free Enterprise Tour," which would be a welcome undertaking if not for the sponsorship of bailed-out General Motors. According to NLPC President Peter Flaherty, "I don't know who looks worse, the Chamber for not appreciating that the GM sponsorship looks silly to many people, or GM for acting like it's a competitive company operating in a real marketplace."
It appears that there is no end in sight to the Obama Administration's costly quest to electrify America's auto fleet, despite the recent flurry of reports that continue to confirm that the benefits of electric vehicles (EVs) are practically nonexistent in comparison to the costs. One of these reports even came from Obama's own NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) panel which downplayed the importance of EVs and claimed that electric cars will only need to account for between one and three percent of car manufacturer's product portfolios by 2025 for lofty government EPA requirements to be met.
A recent Reuters article regarding the likelihood of a bankruptcy filing by the city of Detroit may come as a surprise to those who have heard nothing but positive spin on Motor City's resurgence since General Motors and Chrysler emerged from their Obama-manipulated bankruptcies. Who can forget Clint Eastwood's 2012 Super Bowl ad which gave a heartfelt tribute (paid for by Italian-owned Chrysler) trumpeting Detroit's comeback? It seems like the outlook is now not so rosy for Detroit as its emergency manager Kevyn Orr puts the odds of a bankruptcy for the city at 50/50.
It may turn out to be a very expensive mistake. On May 1, President Obama nominated 11-term Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C. (in photo), to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency, established in July 2008 to oversee troubled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Watt has a history of making racially-charged statements that are way over the line, even by debased "civil rights" standards. The two federally-chartered, publicly-traded companies, operating under government conservatorship for almost as long as FHFA has been around, own or guarantee well over $5 trillion in home mortgages.
General Motors has announced a $4,000 rebate (or $3,000 and a four year, zero interest loan from government-owned Ally Financial) on the slow-selling Chevy Volt. The company had a choice regarding how to deal with an excess supply of Volts that is growing faster than demand. GM could have, once again, temporarily halted production until inventory (currently at about a 6 month supply) came down to reasonable levels. It instead chooses to lose more millions of dollars by spending on incentives designed to manufacture demand that otherwise is practically nonexistent.
It looks like the Obama Administration and the UAW are again working hand in hand as the two entities are coordinating on an offering of a total of 50 million General Motors shares. Treasury is planning on selling 30 million shares as the UAW's VEBA (Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association) Trust will sell 20 million shares. The VEBA Trust was formed to cover retiree's medical benefits for the UAW and received about a 17.5% ownership stake in GM as part of the 2009 bankruptcy process.
The housing market has been on a roll this past year. Prices are rising; vacancy rates are falling; and homeowners are spending small fortunes on upgrading properties. In this context, a White House initiative, the Home Affordable Modification Program, or HAMP, launched in 2009 to reduce mortgage payments for millions of owners at risk of foreclosure, appears downright irrelevant. But Obama Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced this morning that his boss will extend the program for two years beyond its scheduled December 31, 2013 expiration date for new applicants.