March 6, 2009

March 6, 2009 | Commentary on

Scrimpers and Savers Being Played for Suckers

President Obama's mortgage "rescue" initiative gets only four things wrong.

But those flaws are so major, they negate any good that the plan would do.

Here's what's wrong:

  • The plan requires homeowners who have scrimped and sacrificed to pay their mortgages to bail out their less responsible neighbors.
  • It sends the wrong message to children about dealing with the consequences of decisions.
  • It does little to keep a major portion of the refinanced loans from going back into default.
  • It addresses only a fairly small part of the housing crisis that has so damaged our economy.

All are serious failings, but the first is probably the worst.

By most estimates, about 91 percent of mortgages are currently paid on time even if homeowners have to drastically cut back on everything else to meet their obligations.

Now the Obama administration wants to use $275 billion of taxpayers' money to refinance the loans of people who didn't pay their mortgages.

I am not trying to make light of the awful situation facing some of these homeowners who got into trouble through misfortune and other circumstances beyond their control. This is a real tragedy for them.

However, many others in line for taxpayer assistance refinanced their homes to pay for swimming pools, vacations and other extravagances. Still others gamed the system to buy a house they could never afford in the first place.

Sadly, despite the efforts of numerous politicians to be seen as fixing the housing problem, it will only end when prices drop far enough that young families who thought they were condemned to perpetual renting find that they can afford a house, condo or co-op.

There is no silver bullet or magic solution that will speed that process along. That's especially true of government programs - such as this one - that target only part of the problem.

David John is a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

David C. John Senior Research Fellow in Retirement Security and Financial Institutions
Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies

First Appeared in the New York Post