When it comes to sensible housing policies, don’t we all, as a nation, turn toward the direction of California and nod at all the wisdom the Golden State has to share about home ownership?
No? Well tough. The Democratic National Convention for some reason selected California Attorney General Kamala Harris to speak Wednesday night about “leadership” in the midst of our housing crisis:
When it comes to the housing crisis, the choice between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is clear. The fact is, we don't have to guess what Mitt Romney would have done if he were president. Because he told us. He said we should let foreclosures—and I quote—"hit the bottom" so the market could—quote—"run its course."
Run its course. That's not leadership. Doing nothing while the middle class is hurting. That's not leadership. Loose regulations and lax enforcement. That's not leadership. That's abandoning our middle class.
Here's what President Obama did: President Obama won Wall Street reform to prevent any more taxpayer-funded bailouts. President Obama won credit card reform so you don't get stuck with hidden fees and sudden rate hikes. President Obama stood with me and 48 other attorneys general in taking on the banks and winning $25 billion for struggling homeowners. (Emphasis added)
Politifact has already dinged Harris for her misleading characterization of Romney’s statement on foreclosures (leaving out the eminently logical part that hitting the bottom would allow the housing market to bounce back quicker than it is). And we’ll just let the market illustrate the unintended consequences of that “credit card reform.” That final sentence though is a misleading doozy of ignoring reality in favor of publicly stated intent, and Harris damn well knows it.
As Anthony Randazzo of the Reason Foundation predicted back in February, a significant chunk of that settlement had nothing to do with struggling homeowners and is not being used for their assistance. It was a blatant money grab by the government from lenders.
The states all got their own portion of the settlement, and back in May The New York Times reported that states were using the money however they damn well pleased. In California, Gov. Jerry Brown initially proposed giving a good chunk of the $410 million California got on various state Department of Justice programs (how great for Harris!) but ultimately it appears most of the money is going to help plug the state’s $15.7 billion budget gap. Harris wasn’t happy about it, according to the San Francisco Chronicle:
Harris wants to use the money to pay an independent monitor she hired to make sure banks are complying with the settlement and for housing counseling, education and outreach. Her plan is to "set up an advisory committee and put out much of this money through grants" to existing housing agencies, a spokesman for Harris says.
Setting up committees and hiring more government employees is preferable to paying down the debt to her. It’s the familiar “Let us help you by helping ourselves first” standard of governance in California that really has the state going places.