One of Barack Obama’s fondest dreams is being king for a day—running not only the executive branch, as the Constitution dictates, but usurping the power of the legislature as well. He gave utterance to this dream back in July when he told an audience at a town hall event that jump-starting the economy would be easier if I could do this entirely on my own.
He spoke of it again last month, at a meeting of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, where he said:
I wish I had a magic wand and could make this all happen on my own. There are times where—until Nancy Pelosi is speaker again—I’d like to work my way around Congress. [Emphasis added]
A troubling headline this morning suggests that the president intends to grant his own wish. Reuters reports that the White House this week will “announce a series of actions to help the economy that will not require congressional approval, including an initiative to make it easier for homeowners to refinance their mortgages.” The first of these announcements will come later today as Obama begins a three-day swing through western states (taxpayer-funded, bien sûr).
There will also be “a student loan initiative,” details of which will be unveiled on Wednesday. How timely—and how cynical! A student loan bailout is at the top of the anti-Wall Street protesters’ agenda. What better way to win back the hearts and minds of youth-set voters as an election approaches?
How Obama intends to make good on his initiatives remains to be seen. Reuters outlines one of the strategies:
The Obama administration has been working with the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the regulator for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to find ways to make it easier for borrowers to switch to cheaper loans even if they have little to no equity in their homes. [Emphasis added]
The FHFA intends to loosen the terms of the two-year-old Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP), which helps borrowers who have been making mortgage payments on time but who have not been able to refinance as their home values have dropped.
Obviously, accomplishing this goal requires forcing lenders who have been dragging their feet to get with the program and issue a new round of high-risk loans. What could possibly go wrong?
As for Congress (remember them?), White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer is quoted as telling The New York Times, “The only way we can truly attack our economic challenges is with bold, bipartisan action in Congress.” In the same breath, Pfeiffer states:
The president will continue to pressure Congressional Republicans to put country before party and pass the American Jobs Act, but he believes we cannot wait, so he will act where they won’t.
Sounds like a plan to me.
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