One of the biggest economic issues that will face the next president — whoever it turns out to be — is the Fannie and Freddie show: What to do with the mortgage giants that the government suddenly finds itself running.

It’s more than an abstract policy question: What happens next has broad ramifications for the economy and countless businesses and people both here and abroad. BusinessWeek helps map out the landscape, for the candidates and for you.

  • Blip vs. Nightmare: In one scenario Treasury's takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac stabilizes the housing market and reassures consumers and businesses, giving the economy a push back onto the road to prosperity. In the other, the government starts bailing out industry after industry, weighing the country down with public debt -- or the next president fails to move boldly enough for fear of alienating taxpayers. Welcome to uncertainty.(Bonus: Two Paulsons and a Paulsen in one article!)
  • Public, private or hybrid: The candidates have staked out cautious positions on the bail-out, but the real test will come next year. And the next president will have to pick from multiple options, including privatizing Fannie and Freddie entirely, keeping them under the government's wing, or trying a mixed approach (again).
  • Hear from Hank: Maria Bartiromo talks to the man behind the maneuver. (Spoiler: He's mum on Lehman.)
  • China on line one: Domestic economic policy hasn't been purely domestic for a long time, and the Fannie and Freddie rescue is no exception. Some of the GSEs' biggest investors are foreign central banks and sovereign wealth funds, and they were none too happy with how things were shaping up before the bail-out. The move seems to have avoided a can of foreign-policy worms, for now.
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