CommunityFDL Main Blog

Obama Plans Jobs Speech

mosaic by tsevis

The AP reports that President Obama will give a “jobs speech” in September. And yet his last half-dozen speeches have been “jobs speeches,” where he castigates Congress for doing nothing, says he has a raft of ideas that Congress can get done “right now” that he would sign, and says that they involve compromise. And yes, among those ideas is deficit reduction, which he mentions during every jobs section of the speeches, usually first. Then he goes on to say that deficit reduction is not the only thing we can do.

If this is different, if it actually offers newer ideas than an infrastructure bank and extending unemployment insurance and the payroll tax cut, if it touts something other than trade deals and patent reform, that would be something to write about. According to AP, that’s the idea:

The president’s plan is likely to contain tax cuts, jobs-boosting infrastructure ideas and steps that would specifically help the long-term unemployed. The official emphasized that all of Obama’s proposals would be fresh ones, not a rehash of plans he has pitched for many weeks and still supports, including his “infrastructure bank” idea to finance construction jobs.

On a significant and related front, Obama will also present a specific plan to cut the suffocating long-term national debt and to pay for the cost of his new short-term economic ideas.

His debt proposal will be bigger than the $1.5 trillion package that a new “supercommittee” of Congress must come up with by late November.

The president will then spend his fall publicly pressing Congress to take action as the economic debate roars into its next phase. Both the economic ideas and the plan to pay for them will be part of Obama’s speech, although the address will focus mainly on the jobs components.

So the catfood commission proposal will be part of the jobs speech. This was the original grand bargain: job-creating ideas that include spending up front, and deficit reduction on the back end. Then the bargain became deficit reduction with spending cuts and revenues. Then the bargain became all cuts but the debt limit gets increased. The President can try to resurrect plan A at this stage, but when you’re already on plan C, I’m not seeing it come to fruition.  [cont’d.]

Of course this doesn’t look DESIGNED to come to fruition. It looks designed to cast blame over Congress for not passing the fix for the economy. But are these short-term maneuvers going to be all that different? Before Obama touted tax cut extensions, an infrastructure bank and unemployment insurance. Now, it’ll be “tax cuts, jobs-boosting infrastructure ideas and steps that would specifically help the long-term unemployed.” That’s a distinction without a difference.

I don’t mind trying to reframe the jobs debate and having a big fight between the President and the Republican-led House over it. But in addition to laying out steps to fix the economy, the President should actually fix the economy. And there are steps he can take without Congress being involved. Heck, he already did one this week when he requisitioned additional biofuels for the Departments of Energy and Defense as part of a rural jobs strategy. That’s a small option, but Eliot Spitzer writes about the bigger one – fixing the housing market.

There is a continuing and incendiary crisis in the housing market, with about 20 percent of all homes underwater (that is, the mortgage owed on the house is greater than the value of the house). This is dragging down our economy, creating a downward spiral of foreclosures and abandonment […]

The administration, in conjunction with the Federal Reserve, should insist that banks, in return for all the taxpayer subsidies they have gotten and continue to receive, reduce any mortgage that exceeds the value of the house. Once it is established that the homeowner is underwater, other variables can be considered to determine how much the mortgage should be reduced: the income of the borrower, the year the mortgage was issued, the behavior of the bank in recommending the mortgage, or the culpability of the borrower in misrepresenting income levels.

In addition, the banks could also receive a piece of the upside when and if owners sell their houses for more than the value of the reduced mortgage. How much of the upside could be worked out with rules designed to encourage rational behavior by all parties. (If the bank got 100 percent of the price above the value of the mortgage, there would be no incentive for an owner to charge more; if the bank got only a tiny percentage of the price differential, it would never recoup the amount by which the mortgage has been reduced.) The opportunity is to force the banks to give the housing market a shot in the arm—while also allowing them to retain an equity stake that permits them to recoup any short-term loss.

The critical point is this: The best way to revive the housing market is to help out the millions of Americans who are underwater on their mortgages. It is also the best way for the president to make it clear he is acting on behalf of the public at large.

Kevin Drum thinks this is absurd. He asks, “Under what plausible legal authority can the president unilaterally demand that banks — along with all of the assorted other note holders who would have to buy into this plan — reduce the principal of underwater mortgages?” Does he not know that the banks are engaged in a settlement with state and federal regulators over foreclosure fraud that would include… reducing the principal of underwater mortgages? I believe the threat of mass lawsuits would be the legal authority. I don’t happen to think that settlement will be wide and deep enough, but there is more than one way to skin a cat. Fannie and Freddie own well over half of the mortgage market and they are full wards of the state. They could be employed to give mass refinancing deals or even principal reduction. The FHFA, Fannie and Freddie’s government overseer, has been reluctant to do this. I believe he serves at the pleasure of the President, so there are options to make that work.

So these things have to operate on a rhetorical but also an action-based track. There’s room to call for legislative steps to create jobs while actually doing the available alternatives that would create jobs. I realize this is an idyllic scenario that won’t happen in practice. But it’s important to understand there are options here.

CommunityThe Bullpen

Obama Plans Jobs Speech

The AP reports that President Obama will give a “jobs speech” in September. And yet his last half-dozen speeches have been “jobs speeches,” where he castigates Congress for doing nothing, says he has a raft of ideas that Congress can get done “right now” that he would sign, and says that they involve compromise. And yes, among those ideas is deficit reduction, which he mentions during every jobs section of the speeches, usually first. Then he goes on to say that deficit reduction is not the only thing we can do.

If this is different, if it actually offers newer ideas than an infrastructure bank and extending unemployment insurance and the payroll tax cut, if it touts something other than trade deals and patent reform, that would be something to write about. According to AP, that’s the idea:

The president’s plan is likely to contain tax cuts, jobs-boosting infrastructure ideas and steps that would specifically help the long-term unemployed. The official emphasized that all of Obama’s proposals would be fresh ones, not a rehash of plans he has pitched for many weeks and still supports, including his “infrastructure bank” idea to finance construction jobs.

On a significant and related front, Obama will also present a specific plan to cut the suffocating long-term national debt and to pay for the cost of his new short-term economic ideas.

His debt proposal will be bigger than the $1.5 trillion package that a new “supercommittee” of Congress must come up with by late November.

The president will then spend his fall publicly pressing Congress to take action as the economic debate roars into its next phase. Both the economic ideas and the plan to pay for them will be part of Obama’s speech, although the address will focus mainly on the jobs components.

So the catfood commission proposal will be part of the jobs speech. This was the original grand bargain: job-creating ideas that include spending up front, and deficit reduction on the back end. Then the bargain became deficit reduction with spending cuts and revenues. Then the bargain became all cuts but the debt limit gets increased. The President can try to resurrect plan A at this stage, but when you’re already on plan C, I’m not seeing it come to fruition.

Of course this doesn’t look DESIGNED to come to fruition. It looks designed to cast blame over Congress for not passing the fix for the economy. But are these short-term maneuvers going to be all that different? Before Obama touted tax cut extensions, an infrastructure bank and unemployment insurance. Now, it’ll be “tax cuts, jobs-boosting infrastructure ideas and steps that would specifically help the long-term unemployed.” That’s a distinction without a difference.

I don’t mind trying to reframe the jobs debate and having a big fight between the President and the Republican-led House over it. But in addition to laying out steps to fix the economy, the President should actually fix the economy. And there are steps he can take without Congress being involved. Heck, he already did one this week when he requisitioned additional biofuels for the Departments of Energy and Defense as part of a rural jobs strategy. That’s a small option, but Eliot Spitzer writes about the bigger one – fixing the housing market.

There is a continuing and incendiary crisis in the housing market, with about 20 percent of all homes underwater (that is, the mortgage owed on the house is greater than the value of the house). This is dragging down our economy, creating a downward spiral of foreclosures and abandonment […]

The administration, in conjunction with the Federal Reserve, should insist that banks, in return for all the taxpayer subsidies they have gotten and continue to receive, reduce any mortgage that exceeds the value of the house. Once it is established that the homeowner is underwater, other variables can be considered to determine how much the mortgage should be reduced: the income of the borrower, the year the mortgage was issued, the behavior of the bank in recommending the mortgage, or the culpability of the borrower in misrepresenting income levels.

In addition, the banks could also receive a piece of the upside when and if owners sell their houses for more than the value of the reduced mortgage. How much of the upside could be worked out with rules designed to encourage rational behavior by all parties. (If the bank got 100 percent of the price above the value of the mortgage, there would be no incentive for an owner to charge more; if the bank got only a tiny percentage of the price differential, it would never recoup the amount by which the mortgage has been reduced.) The opportunity is to force the banks to give the housing market a shot in the arm—while also allowing them to retain an equity stake that permits them to recoup any short-term loss.

The critical point is this: The best way to revive the housing market is to help out the millions of Americans who are underwater on their mortgages. It is also the best way for the president to make it clear he is acting on behalf of the public at large.

Kevin Drum thinks this is absurd. He asks, “Under what plausible legal authority can the president unilaterally demand that banks — along with all of the assorted other note holders who would have to buy into this plan — reduce the principal of underwater mortgages?” Does he not know that the banks are engaged in a settlement with state and federal regulators over foreclosure fraud that would include… reducing the principal of underwater mortgages? I believe the threat of mass lawsuits would be the legal authority. I don’t happen to think that settlement will be wide and deep enough, but there is more than one way to skin a cat. Fannie and Freddie own well over half of the mortgage market and they are full wards of the state. They could be employed to give mass refinancing deals or even principal reduction. The FHFA, Fannie and Freddie’s government overseer, has been reluctant to do this. I believe he serves at the pleasure of the President, so there are options to make that work.

So these things have to operate on a rhetorical but also an action-based track. There’s room to call for legislative steps to create jobs while actually doing the available alternatives that would create jobs. I realize this is an idyllic scenario that won’t happen in practice. But it’s important to understand there are options here.

Previous post

Taxes Are Not Just For Little People

Next post

A Tale of Two Dicks

David Dayen

David Dayen