Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, pressed on Wednesday for specifics on how he would help struggling homeowners, repeatedly brushed aside the suggestion that the federal government should take a more active role in helping people pay their mortgages and keep their homes.
Romney told KLAS, a Las Vegas television station, that he planned to provide no “bailouts” for those facing the threat of foreclosure. Instead, he said, his broader plan is to “get the American economy going again with people having good jobs and more take-home pay so they can afford to buy homes.”
“As long as you have unemployment as high as it is in Nevada, you’re going to have a hard time getting the home market to come back the way it needs to,” Romney said.
The economy is a top issue across America, but the foreclosure crisis is particularly acute in Nevada. In some Las Vegas neighborhoods, more than eight in 10 homes are underwater. Romney drew some criticism last fall in Nevada for comments to a Las Vegas newspaper that the housing market needs to “hit the bottom.”
On Wednesday, Romney stuck by his private-sector approach to the housing problem. “Banks have a very substantial interest as well in keeping people in their homes and having payments continue on mortgages,” Romney said. He blamed regulations from the Dodd-Frank financial-reform law signed by President Obama for complicating the process and said it is “just a tragedy” that housing remains in the “doldrums” after nearly four years under Obama.
Earlier this year, Obama proposed a wave of new steps to stem foreclosures, including writing down government-backed mortgages for underwater homeowners. Many of his proposals, however, require congressional approval and are languishing on Capitol Hill.
Romney’s entire seven-minute interview was focused on housing and, by the end, the GOP nominee grew somewhat curt. “Your interest in this interview seems to be focused on asking what can government do to give money to people who want money for their housing. My view is entirely different than yours. My view is what can government do to get the private sector thriving again with good jobs, with people having more incomes so they can afford to buy homes,” Romney said.
The former Massachusetts governor was also asked to respond to an April report in which he suggested that he might eliminate theHousing and Urban Development Department. On Wednesday, he did not deny that would be a possibility.
“The federal government has grown too large, it’s become too bureaucratic, we have too many employees and overhead that makes government more and more expensive,” Romney said. “And I think we’re going to find a way to combine agencies, in some cases combine departments, so we can save on overhead and do a better job helping the people of America that need help as opposed to helping government.”
Jim Tankersley contributed.