Julian Castro

Julian Is Julienned

Julian Castro, the head of HUD, has taken his lumps lately over his amateur-hour performance on The Daily Show. Apparently, he just can’t catch a break. Last week, he had the misfortune to appear before the House Financial Services Committee where he suffered the ultimate humiliation. No, not being grilled by Republican hit man Jeb (Clampett) Hensarling. That’s a badge of honor with Castro’s crowd. Rather, it was having to listen to Maxine Waters publicly praise him that had to cause him to spit up a little bit in his mouth. I know that she had that effect on me.

U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., Ranking Member of the Financial Services Committee, was one of the few to praise Castro.

“Secretary Castro, although today you will likely take a fair amount of criticism from my colleagues on the other side of the aisle for your decision, I’d like to take a moment to remind them that when the private sector virtually left our struggling housing market during the worst of the crisis, the FHA stepped up and provided the liquidity that kept it afloat. Despite the steps toward recovery the economy has taken since then, the housing sector continues to suffer from a tight lending environment – and a strong FHA is still very necessary,” said Waters.

“I would also note that FHA is far from bankrupt, holding approximately $40 billion in reserves, continuing to generate revenue, and taking critical steps to recover its capital reserves, which are projected to show a positive balance in 2015,” she added.

You heard that right: when the private sector collapsed, the FHA hung in there. Of course, the FHA had no choice. It couldn’t file “bankruptcy” like a private entity, even though it was insolvent, because its insurance is backed by the full faith and credit of the United States, it is required to fulfill its statutory purpose of providing mortgage insurance to back mortgages to qualified borrowers (many of whom turned out to be unqualified, but that’s another story), and it has been used by clowns like (the Bridge Over Troubled) Waters to apportion housing credit to a constituency that appreciates the fact that the FHA being the lender that loans where angels fear to tread and votes accordingly. I think that putting Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae into conservatorship and pumping government money into those giant slush funds for progressive housing policy (“A Chicken In Every Pot and An Illegal Honduran Gardner In Every Malibu McMansion”) did more to prop up the housing market than FHA insurance. Then again, who am I to argue with a brainiac like Maxine.

Hensarling and his henchman on the Republican side of the far divide are a bit perturbed with recent actions by the Master of the Selfie Stick in the White House, who reduced the annual mortgage insurance premiums for FHA by 50 basis points, from 1.35% to 0.85%, at a time when the FHA has still not restored its capital reserve ratio to the legally mandated level of 2%. In fact, it’s 0.41%. The $40 billion that Maxine crowed about is supposed to over $200 billion.

Castro’s response was as dynamic and on point as were his masterful responses to John Stewart. [Editor’s Note: The previous sentence was sarcastic, for those readers who seem to take everything I write here in dead earnest.] Castro said that everything’s great, we’ve never been better, nothing to see here, let’s all fly to Colorado and score some “Hashey Bars.”

Hensarling was not amused.

“With all do respect (Castro), we have heard that before, and you are sincere. But this committee has been told that once, twice, three times, and it hasn’t proven true,” said Hensarling. “Once again, you are in violation of the law and that has got to stop.”

Except, Jeb, it won’t stop. You know it, and so does everyone else with an IQ above that of a chunk of week-old Limburger cheese. The Republican-controlled House could pass legislation to punish the FHA, perhaps even threatening its funding. Even if the majority in the House did pass such an unpopular measure, Democrats in the Senate would likely thwart its progress in that chamber with procedural maneuvers, and the Perpetual Campaigner would veto it even if both houses pass it. By the time that useless exercise has run its course, there will be a new occupant in the house-is-not-a-home at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and Castro will be back to doing what he does best: looking dynamite in Armani formal wear.

Yes, we know: this is all about press releases for 2016. Keep up the good work.

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