Wednesday, January 16, 2008
I need a man. A man who can say "No." A man who rejects Big Nanny government. A man who thinks being president doesn't mean playing Santa Claus. A man who won't panic in the face of economic pain. A man who won't succumb to media-driven sob stories.
A man who can look voters, the media and the Chicken Littles in Congress in the eye and say the three words no one wants to hear in Washington: Suck. It. Up.
The Michigan primary put economics at the top of the political radar screen, and the Democrat presidential candidates have been doling out spending proposals, stimulus packages, housing market rescues and other election-year goodie pledges like Pez candy dispensers gone haywire. Which leading GOP candidate represents fiscal accountability and limited government? Who will take the side of responsible homeowners and responsible borrowers livid at bipartisan bailout plans for a minority of Americans who bought more house than they should have and took out unwise mortgages they knew they couldn't repay?
I don't want to hear Republicans recycling the Blame Predatory Lenders rhetoric of Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Jesse Jackson. Enough with the victim card. Borrowers are not all saints. There's nothing compassionate about taking money from prudent, frugal families and using it to aid their reckless neighbors and co-workers who moved into McMansions they couldn't afford or went crazy tapping their home equity and now find themselves underwater.
Economist Tyler Cowen points out the problem of predatory borrowing -- something you never hear politicians spotlight. He notes, "As much as 70 percent of recent early payment defaults had fraudulent misrepresentations on their original loan applications," according to research on more than three million loans done by BasePoint Analytics. "Many of the frauds were simple rather than ingenious. In some cases, borrowers who were asked to state their incomes just lied, sometimes reporting five times actual income; other borrowers falsified income documents by using computers. Too often, mortgage originators and middlemen looked the other way rather than slowing down the process or insisting on adequate documentation of income and assets. As long as housing prices kept rising, it didn't seem to matter."
Message to Washington: Stop treating every defaulting borrower like Mother Teresa.
At last week's Fox News debate in New Hampshire, the He Men of the GOP field went all mealy-mouthed when asked about the signs of recession. Mitt Romney asserted our need to "stop the housing crisis." Does he mean the government should insulate borrowers and lenders from culpability? Continue to artificially prop up housing prices? If so, why? If not, then what?
Last month, Mike Huckabee told an NPR reporter unequivocally that it "is not the purpose of government to prop people up from every poor decision they make." Amen, Rev. Huckabee. But at the New Hampshire debate, he sheepishly avoided tough pronouncements and instead voiced support for President Bush's Hillarycare-Lite housing bailout approach since it "didn't involve tax dollars." Yet.
Huckabee is comforting himself and his followers with semantic self-delusion. The Bush measures, including a subprime interest-rate freeze, a proposed expansion of the freeze to cover prime-rate borrowers, and a push to increase the availability of so-called jumbo mortgages and lift the $417,000 loan cap, are the camel's nose under the tent. Eventually, responsible taxpayers will pay.
As for "Straight Talk" Sen. John McCain, he immediately pitched federal education and job training programs for laid-off workers. "We need to go to the community colleges and design education and training programs so that these workers get a second chance. That's our obligation as a nation." It is? This is conservative? This is the alternative to Clintoncare? No, this is Clintoncare. Why can't Americans be expected to pay for their own schooling and retraining?
Fred Thompson, supposedly the conservative's conservative, asserted the need for a fiscal stimulus: "I think that has to be considered somewhere along the line if the economy calls for it."
McCain and Romney want expansion of the Federal Housing Administration to allow borrowers to refinance -- on the backs of taxpayers. Rudy Giuliani wants government aid for borrowers who were "cheated." No word on what he would do to borrowers who did the cheating.
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