The media has more than hinted for the past few months that the American public is clamoring for a lively discussion focused on the housing crisis. The presidential candidates barely even mentioned the word “housing” in their debate on domestic policy last week.
However, Vice President Joe Biden did somewhat better last night during his one and only debate with Congressman Paul Ryan. Unlike his opponent, at least he talked about the subject.
Apparently the Republican candidate for the number two spot on the ticket was having none of it. Either he wasn’t listening carefully enough to Biden’s responses, or he was playing the game by his notes and not wavering from them one iota.
After discussing their differences on Libya and Iran, moderator Martha Raddatz of ABC News moved on to the state of the nation’s economy. Finally! A chance to discuss housing — or not.
And that’s where Biden finally said something about the housing crisis. And it is where Ryan, for all his preparation and focus on economics, frankly missed a golden opportunity to nail the Obama administration on its so-called “alphabet soup” approach to a housing recovery.
“We moved in and helped people refinance their homes,” Biden said. “Romney said no. Let foreclosures hit the bottom. But it shouldn’t be surprising for a guy who says that 47 percent of the American people are unwilling to take responsibility for their lives.”
Ryan could have, and probably should have pounced, much like Romney did during the first debate with Obama, taking control of the conversation. Instead he said nothing except playing by the standard Republican playbook that it’s all about jobs, jobs, jobs and tax cuts for small businesses.
Well jobs are good, but they are not enough. It was a missed opportunity for Ryan and a missed opportunity for the American public to hear what the candidates, and their parties, truly think and feel about the housing crisis, which is not over, despite lower levels of foreclosure activity nationwide.
Yes, millions of people are out of work. But many are also either displaced from their homes or in severe distress and underwater on their mortgages, at higher risk for foreclosure if the economy continues to struggle.
Ryan again missed the boat during the discussion on taxes. Staying the course on jobs and not taxing small business, he mentioned lowering tax rates across the board, while not raising the deficit and not raising taxes on the middle class.
In response, Biden suggested that Romney and Ryan would have to remove the mortgage interest rate deduction to pay for their proposed tax cuts.
“The only way you can find $5 trillion in loopholes is to cut the mortgage deduction for middle class people. Cut the health care deduction for middle class people. Take away their ability to get a tax break to send their kids to college,” Biden said.
Again, Ryan had no retort to these statements, making the issue a non-starter for this debate. There can be no debate or discussion of any sort if only one side brings up the topic and the other side does not respond.
The town hall format of next week’s presidential debate, covering both foreign and domestic policy, may be the best opportunity to hear from the candidates about their approach to the housing issue — if anyone in the audience poses the question.