Still, as the Journal points out, Alt-As were still a small part of their business even though they made up a big part of the losses.

Yet both companies expanded their exposure to riskier loans. At both Fannie and Freddie, so-called Alt-A loans, a category between prime and subprime, accounted for roughly 50% of credit losses in the second quarter, even though such loans accounted for only about 10% of the companies’ business.

In truth, it is the ocean of toxic-waste mortgages funded and sold by Wall Street that ultimately has put taxpayers at risk.

Some context just seems in order.

Dean Starkman Dean Starkman runs The Audit, CJR's business section, and is the author of The Watchdog That Didn't Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism (Columbia University Press, January 2014).

Follow Dean on Twitter: @deanstarkman.