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Friday, January 28, 2011 

Issa calls for HAMP repeal, punts on actual crisis


Just about two hours of hearings, with no testimony from the private sector, was plenty. Coming out of Wednesday morning's first committee hearing, Rep. Issa and two subcommittee chairs -- Reps. Jordan and McHenry -- have introduced a bill (pdf) to repeal the HAMP program and put all uncommitted funds back in the federal treasury.
Essentially, the bill suggests that the program hasn't worked and reforming it is an untenable option, so the money will be taken back and put towards reducing the debt. It's ostensibly backed by testimony from Wednesday confirming that the framework for reforming HAMP is all but gone. There was also some pointed questioning during the hearing about current plans for uncommitted funds, with Assistant Treasury Secretary Tim Massad pointing out that the authority no longer exists to obligate new funds, and so there will be no further commitment of funds.
However, the bill was certainly conceived and written before the testimony on Wednesday, and is timestamped from Monday. In other words, the hearing was a pre-conceived exercise to provide context for the conclusion that had been reached in advance, which allowed for the questioners to target the most beneficial responses to that end. It was not the pursuit of new information, it was not an attempt to learn about the situation and follow the facts to the best solution. It was simply political theatre to a pre-ordained end.
As David Dayen points out, the bill isn't actually any sort of solution. It does nothing to actually address the ongoing housing crisis, it doesn't offer a better plan for foreclosure relief, and it doesn't come with any sort of strategy to help any of the millions of Americans who are still suffering in the housing crisis:
Issa, Jordan and McHenry just want to pull out of any government intervention. That’s irresponsible with foreclosure rates continuing to rise.
But what is infuriating is that their logic is practically unassailable at this point. And this is why HAMP was so damaging. The government ruined its own brand with a program that hurt the people it was meant to help. This is why I’ve said for almost a year that HAMP gravely hurt liberalism. I cannot argue with Issa and Jordan and McHenry when they say that HAMP has to go.
This, of course, illustrates the challenge. What Issa, Jordan, and McHenry are doing is not being wrong while carefully also not succeeding. Recognizing the failings of HAMP is a step, but can't be considered a solution in itself. It's likely to become a familiar refrain from the Oversight Committee under Issa- eliminate things that don't work as well as they should, but don't seek to replace them with something better.
It's a technically allowable, but disappointingly narrow, application of the Oversight Committee if Issa chooses to use it only to eliminate underperforming programs. Meaningful reform requires actual answers, but the response in this case has been to simply give up trying. If you are one of the thousands of Issa’s constituents facing foreclosure, how does that really help?


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