Showdown for Fannie & Freddie

The epic drama of Wall Street bailouts and Main Street foreclosures riveted the nation in 2009. Meanwhile, financial industry groups and Washington policy advocates have been prepping for the big story of 2010: The fight over the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- and with them, the fate of the 30-year, fixed rate mortgage that built the American dream.

The Obama administration has said that by February, it will lay out its vision for Fannie and Freddie, which in some form have been the bedrock of home mortgage financing since 1938. For months now, industry and consumer groups have huddled over bullet points, figuring out their official positions.

On the basics, they come surprisingly close to a consensus. Bankers and consumer groups alike want to essentially sign Fannie and Freddie up as contestants on The Biggest Loser. In place of gi-normous shareholder-owned, government regulated companies on a quest for stratospheric stock prices, the feds would back mini-Fannies that would sell and guarantee mortgage-backed securities under federal regulation. That would ensure that most Americans would continue to have access to long-term mortgages at fixed interest rates, something that wouldn't likely happen if left to the private market.