James Pethokoukis is pretty upset that President Obama is coming around to the idea of mass refinancing of mortgages, and I'm upset too. The difference is that he's upset Obama is thinking about this at all while I'm upset that Obama didn't think harder about it three years ago. But now there's something new to be upset about: it's possible that Mitt Romney is in favor of mass refinancing too as long as it "doesn't add additional government obligation." Pethokoukis:
Now, Romney could have said something like, “The way to boost housing is to boost the economy and speed up the foreclosure process so the market can clear.” But he didn’t say that. He said this: “Clearly, if there is a way of providing a break to homeowners to get lower interest rates, that is something which has always been part of the refinance story. If it can be done in a way that doesn’t add additional government obligation, that’s one thing.”
My guess is that mass refinancing isn't going to happen in any significant way no matter who's president, so on a substantive level I can't get too excited about all this. But it does demonstrate just how unrealistic our rhetorical expectations have gotten. Just as many on the left would like Obama to announce some kind of mass repudiation of debt that would be political poison, Pethokoukis is upset that Romney didn't basically tell homeowners to all fuck off. Romney 2012!
In practice, allowing foreclosures to work their will on the market has been bipartisan policy ever since the housing bubble burst, but everyone sort of pretends otherwise. That's politics. If you want people to vote for you for president, you avoid rubbing people's noses in bad news and then putting your boot on their neck. Even for a guy like Romney, there's a limit to just how much he's willing to shoot himself in the foot to please the purists and the fanatics.