Housing's worst case
Yesterday the regulator for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac put out a forecast of how much the two mortgage giants would cost taxpayers through 2013. It drew three different scenarios based on home prices staying as they are, improving and deteriorating. After the news hit, there was much consternation at the Treasury Department because many news outlets went with that big worst case scenario headline of the big bailout costing $363 billion. That number does not take into account 10 percent dividends that Fannie and Freddie are required to pay back to the government as part of the deal. "Those dividends are specifically designed to compensate taxpayers and make sure taxpayers are paid back," Asst. Treasury Secretary for Financial Institutions Michael Barr told me. They will also keep Fannie and Freddie from ever turning a profit. Barr wanted to make sure I knew that under the "baseline" or current stay-the-same scenario, nearly 90 percent of the losses have already happened. We're only looking at about $19 billion more if the housing crisis ends quickly.