Housing Policy

A "home is an essential part of the American dream"; White House Weaponizing Home Ownership for Re-Election Campaign


let me tell you what the american dream is…

In the latest missive from the White House, David Plouffe, a senior advisor to the president, writes:

For many of us, buying a home is about more than a roof over our heads. It's the place where we'll watch our kids grow up and an investment that will guarantee our long term financial security. There's a reason that a home is an essential part of the American dream…

[The President's mortgage refinancing plan is] the kind of change that can have an outsized impact on the entire country. With a little extra money each month, our friends and our neighbors will be able to do more for their families. That means stronger communities and a stronger national economy.

So even if you don't own a mortgage or don't need to refinance, it's important to add your voice.

We need to show that this is the kind big, national priority that transcends petty partisanship. Republicans and Democrats alike own houses, and they call each other neighbors. It will mean good things for all of us if every responsible homeowner can get some relief.

So speak out beside President Obama. Tell us why you support refinancing, and we'll make sure your story resonates here in Washington and around the country.

Nick Gillespie explained how we got to this point in the first place:

Our story thus far: Thanks to a combination of tulip-bulb-style mania among investors (either stupid or greedy, depending on your predilections), government policies (mortgage-interest deductions for two homes, subsidized loans, giant agencies instructed to buy up all private mortgages, etc.), and Fed policy (keep interest rates as low as possible for as long as possible), record numbers of Americans bought houses (read: took on debt), typically at inflated prices (partly due to other government policies that restricted supply).

You know the next part: The housing bubble popped, leaving lots of people underwater (owing more than their houses are worth at the moment) and triggering a financial crisis (panic probably a better term) that somehow was solved by bailing out big financial houses in such a way that there are fewer of them but they are bigger and more powerful than ever.

After spending most of 2011 in a kind of kabuki theater over government funding, the federal debt limit and expiring tax breaks and other assorted minutiae, President Obama shifted into election mode with the "We Can't Wait" for Congress campaign, and more mortgage refinancing became a part of that, so though this e-mail comes from the White House, it's hard to read as other than a campaign letter.

it's just a little airborne, it's still good, it's still good

About 65% of Americans own their own home, a historical low, even though the federal government has spent decades propping up "affordable housing." While David Plouffe may claim only more government intervention (even in the form of seemingly "free money" for the economy) can alleviate the housing crisis, there's pretty solid evidence government is actually the culprit.

The cult of homeownership also makes the labor force less mobile, having the effect of limiting opportunities for employment. It is not a source of wealth creation, despite the White House's "investment" refrain. The government's insistence that homeownership is essential to the American Dream is misguided and even destructive, and above all, wrong, David Plouffe's invocation of some kind of Voodoo economics where refinancing mortgages and further distorting the housing market will lift all boats notwithstanding. 

NEXT: No Retrial for John Edwards

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  1. buying a home is… an investment that will guarantee our long term financial security.

    How’s that working out for you?

    1. Admittedly, it can actually aid in that role. Assuming you amortize your home over thirty years, and actually stick to that plan instead of refinancing every time rates drop in order to bolster your interest deduction, you will at the end of that thirty year period end up with the entire home value as net worth. The irony of course being that the tax system is specifically designed to prevent that and encourage people to continually refi to the benefit of banks and lenders.

      1. How does getting a lower rate on the balance of the loan negatively affect your situation?

        1. The lower rate doesn’t at all. It’s more of a function that people often when refinancing choose to essentially restart that amort period at 30 years and thereby lower their payment significantly.

          1. My mom would kick that model’s ass. She makes a habit of overpaying and knocking down the principal.

          2. Then refi to a 15 year. Problem solved.

            1. Judging from the ads, a major selling point of these refis is the lower monthly payment.

  2. Lots of first time home buyers around here are already getting relief, and more money left in their budgets every month: prices are 40 percent lower than they were five years ago.

    1. So the home prices are at 2004 levels? Oh the humanity!

    2. I’m getting “relief” because the bank thought my house had 800 fewer square feet than it does.

      Sadly the county figured it out…

  3. Is it me or has today a virtual cornucopia of punchable faces in these posts? From Plouffe to Edwards even all the way to Wintour I feel like freakin’ Muhammad Ali.

    1. Why don’t you assholes ever want to punch a fucking Big Gov GOPer?

      1. Your screen name suggests a strong desire to be nestled inside Sarah Palin’s rectum. And your website link suggest a correlation between your intimate desires and George Soros.

        1. So what?

          Soros is more pro-freedom than any person on the planet.

          So he hated the Bushpigs? I like him for it.

          1. “Soros is more pro-freedom than any person on the planet.”

            I’d like to offer you the chance to walk this one back…

          2. “Soros is more pro-freedom than any person on the planet.”

            Shriek, you’re a laugh a minute!

            1. Dumbass. Cato lauds Soros as pro-drugs, pro-gay, pro-euthansia, pro-markets, and a fighter of Socialism via the Orange and Velvet Revolutions.

              1. When I surrender my judgement of character to CATO, that will matter.

                They also employed that asshat Bruce Bartlett.

              2. Palin’s Buttplug|6.13.12 @ 8:58PM|#
                “Dumbass. Cato lauds Soros as pro-drugs, pro-gay, pro-euthansia, pro-markets, and a fighter of Socialism via the Orange and Velvet Revolutions.”

                Dumbshit, your rant /= “Soros is more pro-freedom than any person on the planet.”
                Is that clear?

      2. “Why don’t you assholes ever want to punch a fucking Big Gov GOPer?”

        Bush made the cover of the issue right as he left, you idiot.

      3. Who said that we don’t? I can think of John McCain and Lindsy Graham right off the bat. There are more punchable faces in the GOP. Get you head out of Palins ass and look around some more.

      4. Mitch McConnell has been Steve-Smithed pretty bad around here many, many times.

      5. Fine shriek, here’s a working list, in no way complete, of TEAM Red I consider imminently punchable:

        John McCain
        Mitt Romney
        Rick Santorum
        Lindsey Graham
        Olympia Snowe
        Susan Collins
        Roy Blount
        Dick Lugar

  4. Here we go again.

    1. Dammit I thought we got rid of them.

      1. They thrive on comment-threading.

      2. Got rid of who? People who disagree with the groupthing?

        1. No, people who make shitty arguments.

          Like “Soros is pro-freedom”. Soros is pro-whatever-makes-Soros-money, be it liberty, fascism or monarchist.

          Ask the folks in Rosia Montana how “pro-freedom” George is. ( http://www.mineyourownbusiness.org/)

          I like to debate with people who see things different but do so in a way that doesn’t include shitty arguments.

          I have better things to do than get in shitty arguments.

  5. Duhh! Bush gave away $10,000 per home loan for low income borrowers.

    They are all whores. It is a matter of degree.

    1. You know, just the other day, I was re-reading that 2002 issue of Reason I had where they cheered the Bush Administration’s decision to help increase home ownership.


    2. “They are all whores. It is a matter of degree.”
      So why are you always cheer-leading for the ugliest one?

  6. So even if you don’t own a mortgage or don’t need to refinance, it’s important to add your voice.

    President Obama, please take more of my income away and give it to short-sighted morons so they can use it to feather their money pits.

      1. Do you think you can ever forgive Shelly Long for choosing Kelsey Grammar over Ted Dansen?

        1. Maybe one day, Hugh. But that day is a long way away.

  7. As with earlier efforts to “help” people who should never have been approved for mortgage loans in the first place, the real purpose of this proposal is simply to further delay the unwinding of the banking crisis.

    The key fact of the whole situation is that all of America’s largest banks are now technically and legally insolvent, because so many of their assets are non-performing mortgages. But under current lax accounting laws, the banks don’t have to admit that fact until they foreclose. So they hem and haw and fidget and delay.

    The federal government lets them get away with it because if they didn’t, the FDIC would be required by law to close all those banks and pay claims — a total amount probably 10-100 times greater than the amount of US currency that exists in the world.

    But until that reckoning happens, there won’t be any new lending to speak of, and the depression will continue.

    I say foreclose on the homes, print the money, and close the banks. Now.

    1. “I say foreclose on the homes, print the money, and close the banks. Now.”

      Uh, what?

  8. You know what? My kids and I once lived in a house we owned. That was with my first husband, a loser con-man who liked to declare bankruptcy every seven years. Also, he liked to beat the crap out of me in front of our pre-school children. No surprise, I took the kids and got the fuck out, and he sold the house without me ever being notified, never mind getting my 50%. That, without a doubt, was the best 35K I’ll ever lose. After that, my kids grew up in a series of rented apartments; perhaps you can guess which arrangement represents “an essential part of the American dream” to them.

    I guess my point is that if Obama can’t sell me and my now-grown kids on this bullshit, in spite of our membership in several subsets of the oppressed victim class, the very people whose envy he is hoping to stoke, then who can he sell it to?

    I’m not an envy junkie, so now, in my happy second marriage to a hardworking good earner, I’ve ignored all inducements to “invest” in home ownership; until my husband’s hefty child-support obligations come to an end, we could only afford a decent house by making a down-payment in the 10% or less range, and neither of us are comfortable with that idea. To me, it’s all part of being a responsible, self-sufficient adult, which may be why federal policy makers just don’t get it.

    1. Sorry to hear that. My parents didn’t own a home until they were in their early 50’s; we moved every three years, so there was no reason to put up with the hassle. My life would have been a lot less rich had we stayed in the same location.

      I hate this idea of “The American Dream”, like there’s some checklist printed onto every birth certificate that we all deserve to complete. The American Dream is that there’s NO checklist.

    2. I grew up in a series of rentals and while it would have been nice to live in a house and not move every 2 years, it won’t kill them. If anything, it will better prepare them for the real world and give them something to aspire to with their kids.

    3. Some people were electrocuted and disemboweled in apartments. Does that mean that apartments were bad.

      Look, our President cares deeply about domestic violence and women’s issues a lot more than the GOP does. Especially Romney, who subscribes to a belief system that places women on a lower standing than lint trap residue.

      Don’t blame his open housing access policies for your relationship issues. I mean it.

      1. Wow, that’s some seriously incompetent sockpuppeting/trolling. Seriously, don’t quit your day job.

      2. You’re a piece of shit mustard.

      3. ‘Look, our President cares deeply about getting re-elected’

        FIFY, bonehead

      4. This is barely worth responding to, but two facts need to be noted. The first is that, in fact, I left my husband during the Clinton administration. No doubt Clinton cared deeply about domestic violence, but he didn’t take my three kids and leave, I did.

        The second is perhaps too subtle for you, since you seem to lack the requisite reading comprehension to understand what I wrote, but I’ll break it down for you:

        Nowhere do I say I was beaten in a house, therefore houses are bad. As I spelled out pretty clearly, not everyone has the same aspirations, and not everybody has the equation home ownership = rainbows and unicorns somewhere in their conscious or unconscious mind. That notion does not play any part in what I want or need or feel entitled to in life, and I fail to see why my tax dollars should subsidize those who feel differently. If it’s really that important to them, they will prove it by working hard, living frugally, and saving money until they are able to make a down payment and get a mortgage on their own.

        I can’t be any clearer, so if you still miss my point you can fucking fuck off.

        1. Ignore it. It wants your rage.

          1. Yeah, I know. I rarely have trouble ignoring trolls, but the inability to read what is written,when combined with unfounded and condescending assumptions about my life, is a really special kind of stupid.

        2. “No doubt Clinton cared deeply about domestic violence, but he didn’t take my three kids and leave, I did.”

          No, he didn’t. He cared about getting re-elected and porking that intern.
          *You* cared about you and your kids; like Obama he didn’t give a hoot.
          (but from your posts, I’m pretty sure this isn’t news)

          1. My point exactly. How does it matter who the president is and what they claim to care deeply about? I’m the mom, so it was up to me to get myself and my kids out of a bad situation. Is personal responsibility so alien to this douche that he honestly believes that had, say, Bushitler been president I would have been too paralyzed to make a decision
            and put it into action? Or are women simpleminded
            children in need of rescue by a big, strong man, preferably one with the full power of the state behind him?

      5. Don’t blame his open housing access policies for your relationship issues. I mean it.

        Hey, musTARD. Did you hear that whooshing noise? That was the sound a point makes when it goes over your head. Pay attention next time and look up.

        1. I guess you are overlooking the parental reminder I mean it he threw in there, since you went and talked back. I hope you’re prepared to have your mouth washed out with soap and your internet privileges taken away.

    4. No surprise, I took the kids and got the fuck out

      Actually, that is something of a surprise since lots don’t. Good work.

  9. No one owns their home anyway. The government owns it, as evidenced by property taxes.

    I really hope that ND voters vote to repeal it there. Yeah, ND, well, it’s fucking ND, GD frozen tundra. But at least they would be starting something. If only it could then spread to somewhere suitable for human life…

    1. ND voted against repealing property taxes last night.

      1. Sad to hear. I mean, what else do they have going for them? If they would have done that, people might actually want to move there. Sad.

    2. Oh, and Hyperion. My comment was @ the deleted bot-post, not you.

  10. Sometimes you jsut have to throw your hands up in the air and shout Whos your Daddy!!


    1. Lame. Even for a bot.

      1. Interesting.
        The squirrels deleted the bot post.
        Carry on.

        1. I missed it anyway, Sevo.

        2. And your reply. That always happens. Which is why I stopped verbally abusing the spambots.

          1. Yes. They can read lips.

  11. Wasn’t OBAMA gonna pay everyone’s mortgage?

    1. No, just that one lady’s.

      1. Out of his stash?

        1. Is the President endorsing the doob as the new US currency now?

        2. What stash? He’s a poor ‘community activist’.

          1. He only just paid off his student loans 8 years ago!

  12. I don’t get the homeownership hate that these stories always bring out.

    Yeah prices got ridiculously out of whack between 05-08, from which they have rebounded back towards sanity. But prices are still higher than they were ten years ago.

    And long term, owning a house has been the best way for working class people to build positive net worth, and wealth; way better than a 401k or savings.

    Further, the whole labor mobility meme is utter bullshit.
    Anyone that it is moving residences constantly for employment is going to be poor.

    1. You know, I wonder how much of the benefit of homeownership comes from the lifestyle of those that choose it rather than actual ownership. Homeownership forces you to spend money on something that probably won’t depreciate as much as the alternatives you may have for spending money. If you’re disciplined enough to live frugally and invest sensibly, I think you could probably do better than owning a home as far as net worth goes. The problem is that people that don’t settle often tend to live in the moment. I know you specified working class, for which I don’t apply, but I would be much better served paying of school debt than buying a house. This is all anecdotal, but whenever I’ve added up the cost/benefit, renting makes more sense.

      1. Renting usually, but not always, makes more sense at any given point in time, but an advantage of buying is locking in a payment for a long period of time. In my upper middle class neighborhood, home owner parents have mortgages that are a fraction (as in 1/3 or less) of what their twenty-something kids pay for one bedroom aparments in worse neighborhoods.

      2. I look at it this way.

        I’ve got a wife and three kids. I’m the wage-earner. If I kick the bucket, it is better for my family to have a place of residence that is ALREADY PAID FOR. Life insurance can go to property taxes and living expenses and they don’t have to worry about ending up on the street. I cannot get that level of security with a mortgage or renting. That is the advantage of owning a house outright. Beyond that, it doesn’t have much usefulness. If I were single, I would rent.

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