Clinton Talks on Mortgage Woes to Wall St.
In an act of striking synchronicity, two leading Democratic candidates introduced proposals to help stem the national mortgage crisis just as President Bush prepared to unveil his own program this week.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton traveled to Wall Street on Wednesday to speak to business leaders and deliver what her advisers described as a major policy address. She also appeared on the business network CNBC for an extended interview about her economic viewpoint with anchor Maria Bartiromo.
Clinton described a litany of economic worries plaguing Americans far from lower Manhattan -- including rising gas prices, stagnant wages and, most significantly, the housing crisis that she said risks forcing people out of their homes.
Clinton said "these economic problems are certainly not all Wall Street's fault -- not by a long shot."
"But the reality of our interconnected economy is that what happens on Wall Street impacts main streets across America," Clinton said. "If we're honest, we need to acknowledge that Wall Street has played a significant role in the current problems," she said, citing a flawed bond rating system and irresponsible lending practices as among the industry's contributions.
"Wall Street helped create the foreclosure crisis, and Wall Street needs to help solve it," Clinton said in her speech. She proposed suspending any changes on subprime loans -- often made to borrowers with weak credit -- for five years to avoid new foreclosures caused by adjustable rate mortgages.
In a similar move, but one his aides said is more sweeping, former Sen. John Edwards proposed requiring lenders to help homeowners who have fallen behind on mortgage payments, either by changing adjustable-rate mortgages to fixed-rate ones, lowering interest rates or another method. "Dangerous mortgages have put millions of families in jeopardy of losing their homes," Edwards said in a statement. "It's time for Washington to stop taking care of banks and their lobbyists and act decisively to help regular families."
With a month until the Iowa caucuses, Clinton took valuable time away from campaigning in early primary states to make her address; her advisers, however, said it is a message that they expect to resonate among middle-class workers in the early states and help bolster her image as a strong, experienced leader. She campaigns in New Hampshire on Thursday, and back in Iowa on Friday and Saturday.
--Anne E. Kornblut
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