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McCain Promises A Series Of ‘Meetings’ To Solve Housing Crisis

By Amanda Terkel  

"McCain Promises A Series Of ‘Meetings’ To Solve Housing Crisis"

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Today, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) spoke to the Orange County Hispanic Small Business Roundtable in California on solving the nation’s economic woes. His speech, however, was short on “straight talk” and offered no serious proposals, instead rehashing President Bush’s failed plans to let the mortgage lenders voluntarily help homeowners. From McCain’s speech:

My friends, let’s start with some straight talk: I will not play election year politics with the housing crisis. I will evaluate everything in terms of whether it might be harmful or helpful to our effort to deal with the crisis we face now.

I am prepared to examine new proposals and evaluate them based on these principals. But I think we need to do two things right away. First, it is time to convene a meeting of the nation’s accounting professionals to discuss the current mark to market accounting systems. [...]

We should also convene a meeting of the nation’s top mortgage lenders. Working together, they should pledge to provide maximum support and help to their cash-strapped, but credit worthy customers.

Watch it:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2008/03/mccainhousing3.320.240.flv]

It’s not surprising that McCain went easy on the financial industry today. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, his campaign has received $1,241,736 in donations from commercial banks and mortgage lending interests.

Several of his advisers and fundraisers are also lobbyists who have represented firms involved in the housing crisis. For example, the firms of Charlie Black, Richard Hohlt, and Juleanna Glover Weiss have made over $2 million in contracts from JP Morgan, and Black and Hohlt’s firms have received $1.9 million from Washington Mutual, the in-house lobbyist for Citigroup.

In fact, McCain has consistently voted against mortgage protections and other steps to help consumers fight unfair credit terms. Some lowlights:

McCain voted against discouraging predatory lending practices. In 2005, McCain voted against an amendment prohibiting law-breaking high-cost predatory mortgage lenders from collecting funds from homeowners who are forced into bankruptcy court. [S. 256, 3/03/05]

McCain failed to vote on bill to overhaul mortgage lending practices of FHA. In 2007, McCain failed to vote on passage of a bill that would overhaul the mortgage lending practices of the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). The bill would reduce the required minimum down payment for an FHA-insured loan and simplify its calculation, requiring a flat 1.5 percent of the appraised value of the home. [S. 2338, 12/14/07]

McCain failed to sign on to Truth in Lending Act. Less than four months ago, McCain failed to sign on to this bipartisan initiative providing protection to consumers taking out home mortgage loans. Among other measures, it was designed to “establish new lending standards to ensure that loans are affordable and fair.” McCain also refused to co-sponsor this legislation in the 107th Congress as well. [S. 2452, 12/12/2007]

For today’s speech, the campaign had to use “both a large flat screen monitor and two side pannel teleprompters” in order for McCain to “look more natural speaking” in his most extensive speech on the economy to date.

More at the Wonk Room.

Transcript:

My friends, let’s start with some straight talk:

I will not play election year politics with the housing crisis. I will evaluate everything in terms of whether it might be harmful or helpful to our effort to deal with the crisis we face now.

I have always been committed to the principle that it is not the duty of government to bail out and reward those who act irresponsibly, whether they are big banks or small borrowers. Government assistance to the banking system should be based solely on preventing systemic risk that would endanger the entire financial system and the economy.

In our effort to help deserving homeowners, no assistance should be given to speculators. Any assistance for borrowers should be focused solely on homeowners, not people who bought houses for speculative purposes, to rent or as second homes. [...]

I am prepared to examine new proposals and evaluate them based on these principals. But I think we need to do two things right away. First, it is time to convene a meeting of the nation’s accounting professionals to discuss the current mark to market accounting systems. We are witnessing an unprecedented situation as banks and investors try to determine the appropriate value of the assets they are holding and there is widespread concern that this approach is exacerbating the credit crunch.

We should also convene a meeting of the nation’s top mortgage lenders. Working together, they should pledge to provide maximum support and help to their cash-strapped, but credit worthy customers. They should pledge to do everything possible to keep families in their homes and businesses growing. Recall that immediately after September 11, 2001 General Motors stepped in to provide 0 percent financing as part of keeping the economy growing. We need a similar response by the mortgage lenders. They’ve been asking the government to help them out. I’m now calling upon them to help their customers, and their nation out. It’s time to help American families.

Update

Huffington Post notes that even McCain’s own advisers need more housing help than what the senator is proposing. Carly Fiorina, a McCain surrogate and former Hewlett Packard chair, received roughly $650,000 from HP between 1999 and 2003 to help with her mortgage.

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