A Pragmatic Vision of a Purposeful Home Loan Bank System

Although a new paper by former FRB Gov. Tarullo and Fed staffers on the FHLB stirred considerable consternation across the Federal Home Loan Bank System, it’s a crushing and persuasive critique of a giant GSE that has long preferred to go unnoticed.  That’s not unreasonable since the System has evolved from an essential small-bank funding source for mortgages into a taxpayer-subsidized capital-markets investment option.  When public wealth is not allocated for public welfare, resources are misallocated and market integrity is compromised.  But, unless the Home Loan Banks blow themselves up, they are here to stay.  Thus, the policy challenge is not how to abolish them, but how best to redirect an established funding channel back to servicing the public good.  Traditional single-family mortgages don’t need the Banks anymore, but much else does.