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Shoring up FSLIC

THE Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation, already in need of help for some time, seems to be moving to a crisis point right now. After running at the lowest ratio of reserves to deposits ever, FSLIC was declared earlier this month by the General Accounting Office to be technically insolvent, with claims against the fund exceeding its reserves by more than $3 billion - a figure that could grow by as much as $1 billion within the next month or so, given anticipated expenses.

Now it looks as though as much as $1.1 billion of FSLIC funds will be going to the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas to make good on FSLIC guarantees on loans made by the Dallas bank to struggling member thrifts. If the transfer of funds is made, FSLIC will be left severely depleted. And auditors of the Dallas bank's 1986 financial statement have warned that if the transfer is not made, they could issue a ``qualified'' opinion - a less-than-hearty endorsement of the bank's financial health.

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That, in turn, could affect the ability of the entire Federal Home Loan Bank System to raise capital in the bond market, with ultimate damage to the nation's savings-and-loans.

The thrift industry has, of course, had a lot of adjusting to do over the past several years. First came the interest-rate shocks, and then deregulation, when thrifts had to learn the difference between kinds of loans they were now allowed to make and the kinds of loans it made sense for them to make.

Many thrifts have learned these lessons; but many, in parts of the country going through hard times, notably Texas and the Midwest, are still struggling.

And there is a Texan newly installed in a position of power in Washington - Speaker of the House Jim Wright. He has fought hard to protect as many of the troubled thrifts in his home state as possible from the sort of crackdown by federal regulators that would end their independent existence, albeit for the greater good of their depositors.

Most recently, he triumphed over the beleaguered Fernand St Germain, chairman of the House Banking Committee, in pulling the FSLIC relief legislation off the ``fast track.'' The Speaker is holding out for some sort of ``forbearance'' that would give some of the salvageable thrifts in trouble more time to work things out.

Surely some kind of flexibility can be arranged; but meanwhile, the whole FSLIC fund is in trouble and needs attention. Omnibus banking legislation, including provisions to help FSLIC, passed both houses of Congress last year but died when Congress adjourned before being able to reconcile differences in other parts of the legislation. Now in the 100th Congresss, Mr. Wright and his interlocutors have another opportunity to forge a compromise on FSLIC. They should take advantage of it.

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