Clinton’s Ad

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"Clinton’s Ad"

Hillary Clinton’s going on the air in Wisconsin:

The mandates issue has been talked to death, but this ad raises another difference between Clinton and Obama — the fact that her plan includes measures aimed at directly targeting issues in the housing market. Specifically:

Senator Clinton is the only candidate with a comprehensive plan to keep families in their homes and keep the housing crisis from dragging down the economy. More than 2 million foreclosure notices went out last year, devastating families and communities. The foreclosure crisis is also contributing to the decline in home prices which has already cost families an estimated $1.3 trillion. Many experts believe the worst is yet to come. To stem this crisis, Senator Clinton has called for a 90-day moratorium on subprime foreclosures and an automatic rate freeze on subprime mortgages of at least five years or until servicers have converted the unworkable mortgages into loans families can afford. In addition, Senator Clinton proposed to temporarily empower state housing financing agencies to help families refinance unworkable mortgages and temporarily increasing the portfolio caps at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and enabling them to purchase larger loans in high-cost areas. These steps would immediately increase the availability of mortgages for responsible borrowers.

Now one thing to note about this is that a bit contrary to campaign stereotypes, if you take this literally it betrays a certain naiveté about the way Washington works. Were a president to submit a stimulus plan with these kind of provisions in it to congress, it’d be bad news. You’d end up delaying legislative action on the overall package, and delays are a big problem with fiscal stimulus. You’d also open the door to all kinds of not-strictly-stimulus measures that various members of congress want to tack on. What Barack Obama proposed — a much cleaner, more streamlined stimulus package that really just focuses on juicing short-term aggregate demand — is a much better idea.

But that’s if you take it literally. Things being what they are, both campaigns stimulus plans were really just smoke and mirrors, with Obama signaling that he can play grown-up technocrat and Clinton signaling that she’s got a solution for every problem in her swiss army knife-like arsenal of policy measures. And while it’s probably not a good idea to link the foreclosure freeze proposal to a stimulus package per se the underlying idea does seem like a pretty good one. As I wrote in my article on foreclosures there are a lot of neighborhood externalities associated with foreclosures, so it’s really worth taking action to minimize them.

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