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Fannie and Freddie Debt Among Government's Liabilities


So much is now explicitly backed by the federal government.

Forget about the entitlement and pension shortfalls, the trillion-dollar deficits that still get offset by a Social Security subsidy (moving to SS deficit in 2017), the broken politics of career Senators (clearly the founding fathers would have put limits on Senator terms and filibusters); there's another interesting liability the government faces.

There's no doubt that agency debt, or debt issued by Fannie Mae (FNM) and Freddie Mac (FRE) to provide funding for what's now 95% of the US mortgage volume, has been explicitly guaranteed by the federal government. Interestingly enough, the savvy Chinese bought tons of agency debt versus Treasuries when the guarantee was implicit. Such bonds paid higher interest though the rates should have been identical to Treasuries. Smart trade. Well, the government backed 'em, China made sure of that. (See also Is US-China Relationship a National Security Issue?)

If you add $6 trillion-plus of agency debt that's federally guaranteed at this point to round-about $13 trillion in government debt, you get 19 Big Boys. Currently, agency debt isn't added to the official government debt. When we say the US debt is 90% of GDP and take comfort in that -- as Greece and Dubai get caught up in their own liquidity crises -- perhaps we should look deeper. Sure, the agency debt is backed up with collateral -- namely the value of many, many houses. But what's that value today? Consider that Fannie and Freddie volume truly spiked after 2005 when Reps like Barney Frank instituted laws like the Community Reinvestment Act. (Interestingly, he's now calling for their abolishment. Irresponsible, he says!)

So much has been swept under the table. There's so much strange accounting. Derivatives (sure, many offset one another), pensions, the difference between agency liability and assets now explicitly backed by the Federal government, the outstanding debt. This is the long-term catalyst for gold. The imbalances, in the end, are a Ponzi scheme, and all Ponzi schemes eventually crack when minimum payments cannot be made.
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