McCain’s Housing Restraint

George F. Will – McCain’s Housing Restraint – washingtonpost.com

[McCain] says “it is not the duty of government to bail out and reward those who act irresponsibly, whether they are big banks or small borrowers.” For now, he is with Senate Republicans in opposing the Democrats’ proposal to empower judges to rewrite the terms of some mortgages, an idea that strikes at the sanctity of contracts and hence at the ethic of promise-keeping that is fundamental to social life. He opposes an additional dose of the toxin that has made the credit system sick — he favors strengthening rather than weakening down-payment requirements for loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration. And he has admirably avoided the rhetoric of victimology, such as that used when The Post editorialized that “lenders pushed tens of billions of dollars in potentially high-interest mortgage debt on people ill-equipped to handle it.”


With the command-and-control propensity of contemporary liberalism, Clinton predictably advocates a policy that has a record, running from Roman times to the present, that is unblemished by success. It is the policy of price controls: Her proposed five-year freeze on interest rates would be a control on the price of money.

Obama says that McCain’s (again, relatively) noninterventionist response to credit difficulties proves that he favors a “you’re on your own” society. McCain, a center-right candidate seeking to lead a center-right country, should embrace Obama’s accusation as an accolade, saying:

“This is the crux of the difference between the two parties — belief in the competence, responsibility and accountability of individuals. When Obama characterizes my position as ‘little more than watching this crisis happen,’ he again has part of a point. The housing market must find its bottom, and no good can come from delaying the day that it does.”

The market, which bewilders and annoys liberals by correcting excesses without the supervision of liberals, is doing that as housing prices fall far enough to stimulate demand. Witness this recent Financial Times headline:

“Property sales pick up as prices plummet.”

The story began: “Sales of previously owned homes in the U.S. rose for the first time in seven months in February, while sale prices fell by their most in at least 40 years.” By golly, the Gershwins were right: The age of miracles hasn’t passed.

Delaying the drop in home prices will only make the situation worse. As so often in life, the answer is obvious: pull the band-aid off quickly.