Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) made an overnight change in the homeowner bailout he proposed at Tuesday’s presidential debate, making it more generous to financial institutions and more costly for taxpayers. McCain's staff says it was always meant that way. When McCain sprung his surprise idea at the start of the debate in Nashville, his campaign posted details online of his American Homeownership Resurgence Plan, which would direct the government to buy up bad home mortgages, allowing strapped people to keep their property. The document posted and e-mailed by the McCain campaign on Tuesday night says at the end of its first full paragraph: “Lenders in these cases must recognize the loss that they’ve already suffered.” So the government would buy the mortgages at a discounted rate, reflecting the declining value of the mortgage paper. But when McCain reissued the document on Wednesday, that sentence was missing, to the dismay of many conservatives. That would mean the U.S. would pay face value for the troubled documents, which was the main reason Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) gave for opposing the plan. A McCain campaign official explained the change: “That language was mistakenly included in the initial draft and it’s been corrected. It doesn’t reflect the intentions of the initiative, which necessitated the correction and the removal of the sentence. A simple mistake.” Obama Campaign Economic Policy Director Jason Furman said in the campaign statement opposing McCain's plan: "John McCain wants the government to massively overpay for mortgages in a plan that would guarantee taxpayers lose money, and put them at risk of losing even more if home values don’t recover. The biggest beneficiaries of this plan will be the same financial institutions that got us into this mess, some of whom even committed fraud."
When I posted this, Barkley suggested that the McCain proposal wasn’t quite so bad. He – like me – was assuming that most of the incidence of this subsidy would go to homeowners. Brad DeLong, however, seems to be saying that most of this subsidy would go “to the shareholders and managers of banks with troubled assets”. If that’s the case, I agree that this is a really bad proposal.