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The White House on the Foreclosure Crisis

Here is David Axelrod (PDF), speaking with CBS’s Bob Shieffer this weekend:

BOB SHIEFFER: Just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse now we find that this sloppy paperwork by the lenders may have made some of these foreclosures now that are being contemplated invalid. Some of the biggest lenders are now freezing foreclosures until they can get all this straightened out. I guess the first question I would have is does the administration favor some kind of national moratorium on these foreclosures to get this all sorted out?

DAVID AXELROD: First of all, Bob, it is a serious problem. It’s thrown a lot of uncertainty into the housing market that is, you know is already fragile. And it’s — and it’s bad for the housing market and it’s bad for these institutions which is why they’re scrambling –

BOB SCHIEFFER: Hm.

DAVID AXELROD: –now to– to go back through and– and– and through their documentation for all of this as they should. The President was concerned enough to veto a bill that came to him last Thursday, that would have unintentionally made it perhaps easier to make mistakes. And, so we are concerned. We’re working with these institutions. I’m not sure about a national moratorium because there are, in fact, valid foreclosures that — that– that probably should go forward. And where the documentation and paperwork is — is proper, but we are working closely with these institutions to make sure that they expedite the process of going back and reconstructing these and throwing out those that don’t work.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, I mean, I guess people are worried about what do you think the impact this is going to have on an economy that’s pretty shaky right now anyway?

DAVID AXELROD: Well, look, our hope is that this moves rapidly and that this gets unwound very, very quickly and that they — they — they can go back reconstruct their paperwork and what we’ve stressed to them is that they need to expedite that process and work very, very quickly to get it done. And we’re going to continue to — to push for them.

This is tantamount to the White House saying: “We think the banks should just deal with this themselves, and despite the now tremendous evidence of systemic fraud in mortgage documentation, we trust them to do so appropriately.”

Granted, there is no easy solution here. Seizing the housing markets right now could force a double-dip in house prices, putting more people underwater, begetting more unemployment. But saying that the White House is working for banks rather than advocating for homeowners seems wrong.

Instead, the White House might consider saying something like this: “We’re not going to let banks repossess any home without due process. That is not to say we’ll halt foreclosures, but that we’re assuring homeowners we’re on their side. At the same time, we’re working to bolster the HAMP program, and considering pushing forward right-to-rent and cramdown legislation as well. Those programs will help families through the foreclosure crisis, keeping them in their homes while, secondarily, assuring stability in the banking sector and in mortgage finance.”

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