The President's Weekly Address
Over the last couple of weeks, I've been traveling around the country and talking with folks about my blueprint for an economy built to last. It's a blueprint that focuses on restoring the things we've always done best, our strengths: American manufacturing, American energy, the skills and education of American workers, and most importantly, American values like fairness and responsibility.
We know what happened when we strayed from those values over the past decade, especially when it comes to our housing market. Lenders sold loans to families who couldn't afford them. Banks packaged those mortgages up and traded them for phony profits. It drove up prices and created an unsustainable bubble that burst and left millions of families who did everything right in a world of hurt.
It was wrong. The housing crisis has been the single biggest drag on our recovery from the recession. It has kept millions of families in debt and unable to spend, and it has left hundreds of thousands of construction workers out of a job.
But there's something even more important at stake. I've been saying this is a make-or-break moment for the middle class. And the housing crisis struck right at the heart of what it means to be middle class in this country: owning a home, raising our kids, building our dreams.
Right now there are more than 10 million homeowners in this country who, because of a decline in home prices that is no fault of their own, owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. It is wrong for anyone to suggest that the only option for struggling, responsible homeowners is to sit and wait for the housing market to hit bottom. I don't accept that. None of us should.
That's why we launched a plan a couple years ago that's helped nearly 1 million responsible homeowners refinance their mortgages and save an average of $300 on their payments each month. I'll be the first to admit it didn't help as many folks as we'd hoped. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't keep trying.
That's why I'm sending Congress a plan that will give every responsible homeowner the chance to save about $3,000 a year on their mortgages by refinancing at historically low rates. No more redtape. No more endless forms. And a small fee on the largest financial institutions will make sure it doesn't add a dime to the deficit.
I want to be clear: This plan will not help folks who bought a house they couldn't afford and then walked away from it. It won't help folks who bought multiple houses just to turn around and sell them in speculation.
What this plan will do is help millions of responsible homeowners who make their payments every month, but who, until now, couldn't refinance because their home values kept dropping or they got wrapped up in too much redtape.
Here's the catch. In order to lower mortgage payments for millions of Americans, we need Congress to act. They're the ones who have to pass this plan. And as anyone who has followed the news in the last 6 months can tell you, getting Congress to do anything these days is not an easy job.
That's why I'm going to keep up the pressure on Congress to do the right thing. But I also need your help. I need your voice. I need everyone who agrees with this plan to get on the phone, send an e-mail, tweet, pay a visit, and remind your representatives in Washington who they work for. Tell them to pass this plan. Tell them to help more families keep their homes and more neighborhoods stay vibrant and whole.
The truth is, it will take time for our housing market to recover. It will take time for our economy to fully bounce back. But there are steps we can take right now to move this country forward. That's what I promise to do as your President, and I hope Members of Congress will join me.
Thanks, and have a great weekend.
Note: The address was recorded at approximately 5:10 p.m. on February 3 in the Library at the White House for broadcast on February 4. The transcript was made available by the Office of the Press Secretary on February 3, but was embargoed for release until 6 a.m. on February 4.
Barack Obama, The President's Weekly Address Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/299521