The Department of Housing and Urban Development is pushing legislation that would enable public housing projects to access private financing. Due to limits on how much of a tenant’s income can be used for rent, public housing authorities have been reliant on billions of dollars in annual federal operating and capital subsidies.
When the 2008 economic stimulus bill created an $8,000 homebuyer tax credit to prop up the ailing housing market, the outcome was predictable: fraud and economic distortions.
The House recently passed legislation to reform the Federal Housing Administration, which is facing a potential taxpayer bailout thanks to all the bad mortgages that it has backed. When the housing bubble burst, the FHA rushed in to prop up the market and now insures approximately 30 percent of new mortgages. In 2006, the figure was just 3 percent.
In a recent speech to real estate interests, former Clinton HUD secretary Henry Cisneros preposterously claimed that the recent housing meltdown “occurred not out of a governmental push, but out of a hijacking of the homeownership process by some unscrupulous interests.”
House Republicans unveiled a bold strategy to cut 0.017 percent from the $3.7 trillion federal budget this week. Republican Whip Eric Cantor unveiled the GOP’s “YouCut” website, which includes five possible spending cuts for citizens to vote on. Mr. Cantor promised to take the favored cut to the House floor next week for members to consider.
One of the justifications members of Congress offer for earmarking is that the Constitution gives the legislative branch the “power of the purse.” Congressional earmarkers often denigrate the executive branch’s inability to effectively allocate funds. But just because the federal bureaucracy does an abysmal job of spending taxpayer money, it doesn’t mean lawmakers would do any better.
When it comes to fraud and abuse, government programs are always chasing their tail. In the private sector, businesses have a financial incentive to stop abuses before they happen. No such incentive exists with government programs. Instead, government officials usually uncover abuses after the fact.
Peter Wallison calls attention to President Obama’s amnesia regarding events that precipitated Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s collapse. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Wallison points out that in 2005 then-Senator Obama joined with his Democratic colleagues in stopping legislation that would have helped rein in the government-sponsored housing duo’s risky behavior: