The New York Times reports: “According to an administration official, [President Obama] will kick off his new offensive in Las Vegas, ground zero of the housing bust, by promoting new rules for federally guaranteed mortgages so that more homeowners, those with little or no equity in their homes, can refinance and avert foreclosure.” Thunk. This is how we got in trouble in the first place — the government subsidizing homeownership by those who made bad financial choices.
Even the Times is skeptical:
The housing proposal that Mr. Obama will announce in Las Vegas is rooted in the independent Federal Housing Finance Agency, the office created to oversee the government-sponsored housing finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac after they were forced into conservatorship at the outset of the financial crisis in 2008.
Though the collapse of housing values is considered a major factor holding back economic growth, because of its effect on consumer spending, government programs to stem foreclosures have fallen short of initial promises. For that reason, officials have tried not to raise expectations that the latest plan can help more than a small fraction of the millions in danger of foreclosure.
While details remain sketchy, the initiative is expected to change eligibility standards for the three-year-old Home Affordable Refinance Program to encourage new, lower-cost loans to more homeowners who owe more on their mortgages than their properties are worth.
If this strikes you as an irresponsible waste of the taxpayers dollars, you are not alone. It was, if you recall, an earlier mortgage bailout plan that set off CNBC’s Rick Santelli’s rant that launched the Tea Party in February 2009. (The video is remarkably applicable more than two years later.)
The Wall Street Journal shares with us the story of a family in Arizona. Thanks to the taxpayer, they “could save $350 a month by refinancing to a 4% rate from their current 5.75%. They would use that money to put their two sons into junior sports, take a vacation and pay off other debts, says [their broker]. ‘It’s a win-win situation.’ ” Um. Where’s our win?
As a Capitol Hill Republican remarked ruefully, “They’re lowering expectations before it even comes out, even as the story says all their previous attempts didn’t work? I have got to figure this out.” He shouldn’t waste too much time on that endeavor.
Don Stewart, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) communications director, e-mailed this reaction: “The President keeps complaining that we’re not passing his stimulus/tax hike. But he had a Democrat Congress for two years and they passed nearly everything — and we’re now living under those polices. So it always amazed me to hear him talk about how bad the economy is — despite predicting a very different outcome when they were pitching the stimulus, the health care bill, Dodd/Frank, the state funding bill, the housing plans…”
Although the latest bailout policy makes no more sense than the 2009 version — and by its author’s admission, it would help very few people — the White House is comforted by its latest catchy slogan. “We can’t wait.” Many Americans surely agree with that sentiment, albeit not in the way the president intended (as a jab at Congress that won’t pass other ineffectual legislation).
There is a desperate quality these days to the Obama administration. He goes on one bus tour after another, receiving lukewarm receptions and caustic coverage by the once-admiring media. He dares Congress to defy him, demanding that lawmakers “pass the bill now.” That bill is unpopular and fails to garner support even within his own party. So forget that one. Try another measure and hawk that one around the country, this time without the need for congressional action. But wait. Wasn’t the whole purpose of the previous bus tour to give Obama a platform to run against Congress? Ah, but that doesn’t work, so he’s now enacting silly measures all on his own.
The White House surely must be praying that Republicans nominate one of the less presentable candidates. That appears to be his only hope for getting reelected.