links for 2007-08-27
U.N. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad Says that George W. Bush Is the Worst Possible President

Larry Summers Asks Questions: Why Haven't the Conforming Mortgage Cap Amounts Been Raised?

Larry Summers:

Economists' forum: A premise of the US financial system is that banks accept much closer supervision in return for access to the Federal Reserve’s payments system and discount window. The problem this time is not that banks lack capital or cannot fund themselves. It is that the solvency of a range of non-banks is in question, both because of concerns about their economic fundamentals and because of cascading liquidations as investors who lose confidence in them seek to redeem their money and move into safer, more liquid investments. Central banks that seek to instil confidence by lending to banks, or reducing their cost of borrowing, may, as the saying goes, be pushing on a string. Is it wise to push banks to become public financial utilities in times of crisis? Should there be more lending and/or regulation of the non-bank financial institutions?...

[W]hat is the role for public authorities in supporting the flow of credit to the housing sector? The lesson learnt during the S&L debacle was that it was catastrophic to finance home ownership through insured banking institutions that borrowed short term and then offered long-term fixed-rate home mortgages. Now a system reliant on securitisation, adjustable rate mortgages and non-insured financial institutions has broken down.

I am among the many with serious doubts about the wisdom of the government quasi-guarantees that supported the government-sponsored entities, Fannie Mae, the Federal National Mortgage Association, and Freddie Mac, the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp , as they have operated in the mortgage market. But surely if there is ever a moment when they should expand their activities it is now, when mortgage liquidity is drying up. No doubt, credit standards in the subprime market were too low for too long. Now, as borrowers face higher costs as their adjustable rate mortgages are reset, is not the time for the authorities to get religion and discourage the provision of credit...

These are wise questions. I don't understand why the conforming mortgage dollar caps have not already been raised substantially.