BLOG VIEW: In the course of the Republican presidential primary campaign, there have been several bold and intriguing ideas on how to reshape housing finance. Newt Gingrich was the first out of the gate last fall by declaring that he would repeal the Dodd-Frank Act. Mitt Romney later followed by saying he would repeal the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Ron Paul moved beyond mere legislation repeal with a promise to shut down the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
And Rick Santorum? Well, he wants to repeal Roe v. Wade. Or, at least, that appears to be what he is more interested in talking about.
In the past few weeks, Santorum has successfully shifted the focus of the Republican presidential campaign – and, by extension, the wider political debate – to discussions relating to abortion, contraception and birth control. Who could have guessed that a political race that was originally pegged to center on economics would evolve into a raucous conversation on OB-GYN issues?
I should backtrack a bit and concede that I am being a bit facetious in regard to Santorum's housing reform position. According to his campaign website, he has a solution to the problems facing the housing crisis. This is his strategy, verbatim: ‘I'll submit a plan to Congress to phase out, within several years, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's federal housing role, reform and make transparent the Federal Reserve, and allow families whose homes are 'underwater' to deduct losses from the sale of their home in order to better get a fresh start in difficult economic times.’
And that's the Santorum housing market recovery plan, in the proverbial nutshell! What is unsettling is realizing that single sentence was the 10th out of 10 entries in Santorum's Web page entitled ‘First 100 Days Economic Freedom Agenda.’ The fact that it was last on the list, I fear, makes the issue of housing market recovery the least important of the candidate's priorities.
In comparison, Santorum has a full page on his campaign website pledging to vigorously crack down on ‘illegal pornography.’ And, not surprisingly, there is an even longer page in which the former Pennsylvania senator details his ‘Record on Defending the Dignity of Every Human Life.’
Call me a hedonistic libertine, but I somehow suspect that pornography (illegal, legal or somewhere in between) poses much less of a problem to American society than having anywhere from 1 million to 7 million homes in the shadow inventory or having the courts backed up for years with foreclosure lawsuits.
And while I do not doubt Santorum's sincerity in regard to the sanctity of embryonic life and other issues connected to the moral fabric of the nation, I have to question his priorities as he pursues the most powerful office on Earth. At a time when the economy is stagnant, unemployment stuck over 8%, the federal deficit has lethally hemorrhaged to monstrous proportions, the trade deficit has the nation in hock to China, the U.S. taxpayer is propping up the national housing finance system and federal entitlement programs are being held together by safety pins, one of the last things on the minds of most Americans is the emotional complexity of using healthcare plans to pay for birth control pills.
But Santorum is hardly alone in wasting attention on other subjects while ignoring the still-fragile housing market. Indeed, consider the extraordinary media and political attention to Rush Limbaugh's infelicitous verbiage aimed at an obscure birth control activist – and compare that brouhaha to the total silence from the media and the political establishment on the administration's repeated failure to present a federal loan modification program that works. Really, what is more important – the economy or Rush Limbaugh's big mouth?
Actually, I already know the answer to that question. While writing this column, I ran a Google News search of ‘foreclosure’ and came up with 8,790 hits on news sites. Then I ran a Google News search for ‘contraception’ and retrieved 21,200 news site results. Will somebody please pass the aspirin?
– Phil Hall, editor, MortgageOrb
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(Photo courtesy RickSantorum.com)