Another political factor: people struggling to keep paying their mortgages who are upset that deadbeat borrowers may get a break.
“I pay my mortgage every month; that was the deal I made,” Kevin McGrath, a Virginia realtor, wrote in an e-mail. “I know I am currently throwing money into a depreciating asset that every day feels more and more like the Black Hole of Calcutta, but that’s ok; I placed my bet, and I am willing to ride this pony until she breaks.
“But wait a minute; now I look over at my neighbor and I see he is in the same situation, upside down on his mortgage, except he has not made a payment in a year or so. He has multiple cars in his driveway, some of them newer than mine, he just got back from a trip to Best Buy, and he is still living in his house. There are all kinds of neat things to do with your money when your housing costs are zero. Where is my free rent?
By Steven Mufson Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 19, 2010; 7:26 AM
The details of the foreclosure mess are ugly and complicated. The politics of it are even worse.
The calculus is clear for most Democratic incumbents, especially those in tight races like Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid: Nothing could be worse on the eve of elections than images of people being booted out of their homes by big banks that have relied on sloppy, if not fraudulent, paperwork.
But reviving the economy requires repairing the housing market, which won’t happen until foreclosed properties and delinquent mortgages are dealt with. So the White House, which is looking past the midterm elections, has been restrained. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan wrote over the weekend that “a national, blanket moratorium on all foreclosure sales would do far more harm than good, hurting homeowners and home buyers alike.”
It’s a recipe for legislative inaction, especially with lawmakers busy campaigning. For a White House seen by Wall Street as too populist, and by many liberals as too close to Wall Street, that might not be a bad outcome. Democratic candidates can strike a populist note, letting the Obama administration take the economic high road while pressing banks to define the scope of the latest financial mess.
“There’s a problem here,” said one veteran Democratic political consultant, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity. “The politics are very attractive to say, ‘Let’s have a moratorium.’ But shutting down foreclosures has the potential of shutting down the whole housing market, which isn’t helpful to anybody.”
For now, most of the biggest banks, sensitive to political winds, have voluntarily frozen foreclosure sales. Some analysts believe the freeze could last until January. That gives banks until the end of the quarter to figure out the extent of their problems, and it delays foreclosures until after the election as well as the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
“I think that they’re trying to see how this is playing,” said one political consultant working for the financial services industry. “They’re trying to gauge the political intensity around the issue.”
Democratic pollster Peter Hart says intensity runs high. “There are two things of critical importance to American households,” he said. “One is their job and two is their house.”