President Obama appeared on the Daily Show last night, and Jon Stewart confronted him with the “H” word. It’s not one that comes up much in Obama’s presence; I can’t remember the last time, in fact. But last night, he had to answer for HAMP.
It came in a follow-up, actually, which shows the level of preparedness of the Daily Show staff, a few notches above, well, everyone in journalism. Obama started making his pitch for refinancing for underwater borrowers with non-GSE loans, a familiar topic. Refinancing has boomed due to low interest rates, and legislation is required to let underwater borrowers without Fannie and Freddie loans access it. Of course, then they will get the privilege of being ripped off on their lowered interest rate by their non-competitive lenders, who will reap big profits from the whole enterprise. But that’s a topic for another day.
In response to this, Stewart simply said, “But what about HAMP, you were supposed to spend $50 billion on that, you only spent $5.5 billion.” If anything, Stewart may have oversold it; less than $4.5 billion has been spent as of the end of June.
Obama didn’t try to defend HAMP, because simply, there is no defense. HAMP was designed to foam the runway for the banks and let them foreclose more gradually on the same borrowers while squeezing out a few extra payments. Instead, Obama threw out two statistics: 1) that there have been 5 million loan modifications “to save people from losing their homes,” 2) the government just reached a settlement with the five leading servicers for $25 billion.
OK, on the five million loan mods, this is an Administration talking point. It includes private loan mods performed through HOPE Now ,