Politics

Rhymes With "Male Lout"

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Be very afraid of some of the "solutions" being proferred to the subprime-triggered credit crunch:

The Fed, the Bank of England and the European Central Bank are exploring the feasibility of using taxpayers' money to shore up the mortgage-backed securities market, the Financial Times reported on March 22 […]

The only tool left may be for the Fed to help facilitate a Resolution Trust Corp.-type agency that would buy bonds backed by home loans, said Bill Gross, manager of the world's biggest bond fund at Pacific Investment Management Co. While purchasing some of the $6 trillion mortgage securities outstanding would take problem debt off the balance sheets of banks and alleviate the cause of the credit crunch, it would put taxpayers at risk.

Ya think? Meanwhile, the Washington Post today asked each major presidential campaign their big ideas for Solving the Economy. Some excerpts:

Barack Obama's Austan Goolsbe:

Obama supports efforts to create a new FHA Housing Security Program to provide significant incentives and guarantees for lenders to buy out mortgages that exceed the value of homes and convert them into stable 30-year fixed-rate mortgages that homeowners can afford. This is a responsible plan designed to help responsible homeowners without rewarding borrowers or investors who helped create the problem by gambling recklessly or committing fraud, and it asks both sides to contribute to the solution.

Obama would couple this plan with a direct interest-rate subsidy for low- and middle-income borrowers patterned on the mortgage interest deduction now predominantly used by high-income itemizers, as well as with comprehensive credit counseling, additional aid for loan workouts and reform of the bankruptcy code.

John McCain's Douglas Holtz-Eakin:

McCain will not play election-year politics with the mortgage crisis. In evaluating any proposal, he will apply four principles: (1) No taxpayer dollars should bail out real estate speculators or financial market participants who failed to do due diligence in assessing credit risks. (2) Any financial assistance should be accompanied by reforms that ensure that we never face this problem again. (3) Too little equity — small down payments by home buyers and too little capital at our financial institutions — was a source of the housing and credit problem that must be reversed. (4) Where government assistance is merited, lenders and homeowners should make financial sacrifices to qualify.

The financial markets are suffering the after-effects of the bursting of a housing bubble. As with the technology bubble of the late 1990s, much of the difficulty has been created by speculators looking for quick profits and by investors and bankers who ignored basic rules of risk management in an attempt to cash in while times were good. John McCain will not dip into pockets on Main Street to reward these people with a bailout.

Hillary Clinton's Gene Sperling:

Clinton called on regulators to take preemptive action — including a foreclosure timeout, strengthening the Federal Housing Administration's capacities to respond to a crisis and cracking down on predatory lending practices with plain-language disclosure requirements. She has since called for a plan to encourage the restructuring of viable mortgages through a voluntary agreement to freeze interest rates on subprime adjustable-rate mortgages and a 90-day foreclosure moratorium. She immediately supported the legislation introduced by Rep. Barney Frank and Sen. Chris Dodd seeking a more systemic effort to unlock and restructure mortgages, and she continues to consult experts over the most effective method for doing so. […]

On Thursday, Clinton proposed a second stimulus package, focused on helping at-risk homeowners and communities. Across the nation, concentrated foreclosures and vacant buildings are leading to downward spirals; they threaten to bring crime and blight into once-viable neighborhoods. In early January, Clinton called for a $30 billion Emergency Housing Fund to give localities broad tools to head off this threat, including the latitude to buy and rent out or resell such vacant properties. Today, even Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is calling for policies to confront the community harm traced to "clusters of foreclosures." If we can provide a $30 billion lifeline for Bear Stearns, can't we afford $30 billion to prevent Main Streets from turning into mean streets?

Discuss.