The financial crisis besetting the major financial institutions has brought to light comments made by Ron Paul, in his testimony before the House Financial Services Committee on September 10 2003.
As Paul saw the situation some five years ago, the government backing isolated GSE management from market discipline. If Fannie and Freddie were not underwritten by the federal government, he told the committee, investors would demand the institutions held to higher management and accounting practices.
“Ironically, by transferring the risk of a widespread mortgage default, the government increases the likelihood of a painful crash in the housing market,” Paul predicted. “This is because the special privileges granted to Fannie and Freddie have distorted the housing market by allowing them to attract capital they could not attract under pure market conditions. As a result, capital is diverted from its most productive use into housing. This reduces the efficacy of the entire market and thus reduces the standard of living of all Americans.
“Despite the long-term damage to the economy inflicted by the government’s interference in the housing market, the government’s policy of diverting capital to other uses creates a short-term boom in housing,” Paul went on. “Like all artificially created bubbles, the boom in housing prices cannot last forever. When housing prices fall, homeowners will experience difficulty as their equity is wiped out. Furthermore, the holders of the mortgage debt will also have a loss. These losses will be greater than they would have otherwise been had government policy not actively encouraged over-investment in housing.