Obama’s Radio Address on the Economy
December 12, 2008
Earlier this week, we learned that the number of Americans filing their first claim for unemployment insurance rose to a nearly 30-year high. This news reflects the pain that’s been rippling across our entire economy. Jobs are being cut. Wages are being slashed. Credit is tight and people can’t get loans. In cities and towns all across this country, families enter a holiday season with unease and uncertainty.
To end this economic crisis, we must end the mortgage crisis where it began. This all started when Americans took out mortgages they couldn’t afford. Some were reckless, aware of the risks they were accepting, but many were innocent, tricked by lenders out to make a quick buck. With banks creating securities they could not value, and regulators looking the other way, the problem began infecting the whole economy, leading to the crisis we’re now facing.
One in ten families who owns a home is now in some form of distress, the most ever recorded. This is deeply troubling. It not only shakes the foundation of our economy, but the foundation of the American Dream. There is nothing more fundamental than having a home to call your own. It’s not just a place to live or raise your children or return after a hard day’s work — it’s the cornerstone of a family’s financial security.
To stem the rising tide of foreclosures and strengthen our economy, I’ve asked my economic team to develop a bold plan that will dramatically increase the number of families who can stay in their homes. But this plan will only work with a comprehensive, coordinated federal effort to make it a reality. We need every part of our government working together — from the Treasury Department to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the agency that protects the money you’ve put in the bank. And few will be more essential to this effort than the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
From providing shelter to those displaced by Katrina to giving help to those facing the loss of a home to revitalizing our cities and communities, HUD’s role has never been more important. Since its founding, HUD has been dedicated to tearing down barriers in access to affordable housing — in an effort to make America more equal and more just. Too often, these efforts have had mixed results.
That is why we cannot keep doing things the old Washington way. We cannot keep throwing money at the problem, hoping for a different result. We need to approach the old challenge of affordable housing with new energy, new ideas, and a new, efficient style of leadership. We need to understand that the old ways of looking at our cities just won’t do. That means promoting cities as the backbone of regional growth by not only solving the problems in our cities, but seizing the opportunities in our growing suburbs, exurbs, and metropolitan areas. No one knows this better than the outstanding public servant I am announcing today as our next Secretary of Housing and Urban Development — Shaun Donovan.
As Commissioner of Housing Preservation and Development in New York City, Shaun has led the effort to create the largest housing plan in the nation, helping hundreds of thousands of our citizens buy or rent their homes. Prior to joining Mayor Bloomberg’s administration, Shaun worked both in business, where he was responsible for affordable housing investments, and at one of our nation’s top universities, where he researched and wrote about housing issues. This appointment represents something of a homecoming for Shaun, who worked at HUD in the Clinton administration, leading an effort to help make housing affordable for nearly two million Americans. Trained as an architect, Shaun understands housing down to how homes are designed, built, and wired.
With experience that stretches from the public sector to the private sector to academia, Shaun will bring to this important post fresh thinking, unencumbered by old ideology and outdated ideas. He understands that we need to move past the stale arguments that say low-income Americans shouldn’t even try to own a home or that our mortgage crisis is due solely to a few greedy lenders. He knows that we can put the dream of owning a home within reach for more families, so long as we’re making loans in the right way, and so long as those who buy a home are prepared for the responsibilities of homeownership.
In the end, expanding access to affordable housing isn’t just about caring for the least fortunate among us and strengthening our middle class — it’s about ending our housing mess, climbing out of our financial crisis, and putting our economy on the path to long-term growth and prosperity. And that is what Shaun and I will work to do together when I am President of the United States.