Refinement

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April 10, 2008 10:43 p.m.
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TPM Reader YA turns a critical eye on McCain because … well, no one in the press will …

So I’m trying to make sense of McCain’s “refined” plan. Two weeks ago, he wondered aloud how “4 million mortgages [could] cause this much trouble for us all,” and suggested that if those borrowers just took fewer vacations and managed their budgets more effectively, they wouldn’t be in trouble. Today, he promised to help “every deserving American family or homeowner.” So how many American families are deserving? McCain’s top economic policy adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, places the number between 200,000 and 400,000 households; just those families “who really need help.”

Great. So to be clear, McCain thinks that millions of Americans are going to lose their homes, and all but a few hundred thousand are just getting what they deserve. Specifically, he’s prepared to step forward and help only those who:

-Took out a subprime loan after 2005

-Can prove they were “creditworthy” at the time

-Are unable to pay that subprime loan

-But could pay a 30-year fixed rate loan

Of course, pretty much all those folks already qualify for assistance under the existing FHASecure program. McCain’s proposal offers greater leverage over recalcitrant lenders, and shoulders some of the cost of restructuring the loans, but virtually everyone who meets his guidelines is already eligible for help.

So on the whole, “refined” is a fine word to apply. Two weeks ago, McCain stood up and announced that so far as he was concerned, millions of Americans were going to lose their homes because they borrowed recklessly, and that was fine with him. Today, he “refined” that, vowing action. But it’s typical Republican bamboozlement. McCain says that perhaps a few hundred thousand homeowners deserve ever so slightly more help than they’re already receiving, but that millions of others should lose their homes. And
it’s worth pointing out that most analysts agree that the number of folks who would be helped by this plan is probably much smaller than Holtz-Eakin estimates. There’s really not much difference between his initial position and his bold new plan – they both amount to inaction.

So I’d suggest that right after they note that “John McCain says he’d be happy to see our troops in Iraq for another hundred years,” the Democrats would do well to add, “John McCain says that millions of Americans deserve to lose their homes.” All it’s going to take to beat this guy is telling the public where he stands.

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