Have We Done Enough to Help Struggling Homeowners?


Yesterday, I endorsed part of Ezra Klein's posting about Faisal Shahzad -- not the silly part, in which he suggested that the mortgage crisis leads people to do crazy things, such as blow up Times Square -- but the part in which he argued that the government should be doing more to help struggling homeowners. This morning, Noam Neusner, late of the Bush Administration, wrote to tell me that I was not only wrong, but "flat-out" wrong, which is a more rarefied category of wrong:

Today, you wrote the following: "I agree, of course, that we have not done
nearly enough to help struggling homeowners."

Really? Not "nearly enough" is a pretty big statement.

In 2009 there was a $75 billion (yes B) mortgage aid/relief program passed
by Congress. It was supposed to help out 1 in 9 homeowners. That's a lot.
Now, it's turned out to be a crappy program, but that may be more of a
function of the reality of trying to create from scratch a program run by
the federal government to stand in between two parties to a contract --
which is what a mortgage is. But $75 billion was put on the table.

Then there's Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two outrageously overextended
and Madoff-like federal government agencies masquerading as corporations,
which grease the skids in the mortgage market every day.

Then there's the jawboning of banks and mortgage firms by the White House
and Treasury, getting them to give underwater and late-paying mortgagees a

Not to mention the mortgage interest deduction, which helps struggling and
nonstruggling homeowners alike. The mortgage interest deduction, if it were
a government spending program, would fund a good-sized Asian land war.

So unless "we" in the sentence above refers to you and the other members of
the Goldberg family, who are probably working hard enough to pay one
mortgage and can't be bothered paying for another (and who could blame you
if that was the case?), you're flat-out wrong.

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. Author of the book Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror, Goldberg also writes the magazine's advice column. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. Previously, he served as a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward, and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

His book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. Goldberg rthe recipient of the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism. He is also the recipient of 2005's Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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