Last night’s GOP primary debate took place in Nevada, which has led the nation in foreclosures for 56 consecutive months. It should have been the ideal venue for discussing the housing crisis and the fact that 1 million people are projected to lose their homes next year.
One questioner from the audience did, indeed, ask about foreclosures, and the slew of non-answers that came from the GOP candidates is a strong indicator regarding the lack of ideas that they have for keeping people in their homes. In fact, the discussion almost instantly devolved into a spitting match over whether or not various candidates supported the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), the much reviled bank bailout of 2008, which has nothing to do with the current foreclosure crisis. Watch it:
First off, for all of its undeniable warts, TARP has earned a profit for taxpayers and succeeded in bolstering the economy. Of the limited options available at the time, it was the right course, and the Dodd-Frank financial reform law that all the candidates want to repeal is aimed at preventing a repeat of that situation.
In the few moments they did spend on actual housing policy, former Sen. Rick Santorum said, “We need to let the market work and that’s what hasn’t happened so far.” Romney doubled down on his remark from earlier that there should be no attempt to help homeowners facing foreclosure. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) turned the question into an attack on President Obama, saying he hasn’t done enough to help “women who are at the end of their rope because they’re losing their homes,” but offering no solutions of her own.
It was an embarrassing display, all the more so because the administration’s foreclosure prevention plans have been incredibly underwhelming, seemingly giving the candidates a legitimate opening to criticize the president. Instead, in their zeal to appeal to the anti-TARP sentiments of their base, they ignored the very real crisis with which homeowners in Nevada (and all across the country) are continuing to struggle.
Slate’s Dave Weigel notes that Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) was “the only candidate who expresses any sympathy for the foreclosed, or any interest in how the bailout failed to save them.” “The middle class got stuck. They got stuck. They lost their jobs, and they lost their houses. If you had to give money out, you should have given it to people who were losing their mortgages, not to the banks,” Paul said.