WASHINGTON -- I am bad at math, even worse at macroeconomics. In other words, I am your standard political reporter. So take this for what it is worth, but I have an idea for how President Obama can solve the nation's never-ending mortgage foreclosure crisis.
He needs to write a lot of letters. Specifically, by my count, 286,572 of them.
I got this idea from the news out of Indiana today: Destiny Mathis, a 26-year-old single mother of three, is thinking of selling a handwritten letter she got from President Obama to get the cash she needs to avoid being evicted from her apartment in Hobart, Ind.
Mathis had written the Obama last winter, expressing concern that she had lost her job, and that she would soon be homeless. The president wrote back, trying to cheer her up. "You have such a positive spirit," he wrote. "Please know that things will get better for you and your family."
Apparently, they didn't, and now Destiny's name has a sadly ironic meaning.
The prospective letter buyer is one of the nation's leading autograph dealers, Gary Zimet. He has purchased eight of these rare specimens -- almost all of the president's letters are typed and signed with an autopen. This one could go for up to $20,000.
Zimet doesn't appear to have a political motive to embarrass the president. It seems that he is just looking to make money. He faced down controversy when he put Schindler's List -- yes, the real list -- up for sale, and he has lots of Founding Fathers stuff, too.
Anyway, here is my idea for the housing crisis: According to government estimates, there are right now about 2.18 million homes in foreclosure. According to government estimates, the average sale price of a foreclosed-upon home nationwide is $168,000.
To get those homes out of foreclosure proceedings -- if they are lucky enough to do be able to do it at all -- homeowners need to fork over three monthly payments immediately. Calculating a 4.75 percent rate on a 30-year-fixed, I come out with a total three-month lump sum payment of $2,629.11.
Multiply that by 2.18 million, and you get a figure for our total national foreclosure-avoidance nut: $5,731,459,800.
But where are we going to get $5.7 BILLION? Why, clearly, from the active left hand of that great scribe, Barack Obama. And now, as Ross Perot used to say, here is the beauty part: He doesn't have to write a letter to EACH of the 2.18 million. By my calculation, he only has to write to 286,572 of them to get the dough.
We'd have to find a way to split the proceeds among all 2.18 million homeowners. This would be a useful task for Fannie and Freddie.
HuffPost intern Sam Haass just came into my office and pointed out that if Obama writes all of those letters, the value of each individual letter would plummet.
And yet, I'm no economist, but isn't flooding the market with pieces of paper precisely what Ben Bernanke and Alan Greenspan have been doing for years? They're not writing letters, just printing dollars.
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