Who’s bailout?

Nevada and Nevadans are in deep financial trouble. It’s been a favorite editorial topic for these last few months, at least in these pages. Virtually every jurisdiction and sector of government is in trouble, but even more than that, individuals’ private bookkeeping categories—employment, housing, utilities, credit cards, health care—have gone from bad to worse over the last year.

Government has come up with a lot of words to describe the phenomenon: upside down, underwater—you name it—nice sounding metaphors to describe smothered in debt. But the problem is, just as with the various economic stimulus packages our federal government has made into law, details are scarce, and regular old “folks” like us are poorly informed as to how these new laws are supposed to help us non-CEO types. And it’s not just poor research on our part or the part of media, unbiased information truly doesn’t appear to exist.

The bottom line is that government, mainly because of eight years of the Bush administration but for decades before, has lost our faith. We write editorials suggesting that people stay positive and not give up, but when citizens get right down to it, examples of where our elected officials have gotten it right are pretty few and far between. And then, in times of trouble, those places where the government has gotten it right appear to be the first places the budget is trimmed.

So now we are faced with a quandary: We have this excellent nuts-and-bolts, pragmatic cover story by a local real estate expert that will offer some of the most desperate among us a strategy to preserve our financial futures, and we have President Barack Obama getting ready to announce a “mortgage relief plan” on March 4—the last day this issue will be on the stands.

The possibility exists that the Obama plan will fly through Congress with broad bipartisan support and won’t be watered down in favor of the banking industry to the point where it helps few in Nevada. But the more pessimistic among us look to what happened under the Democratic Congress’ Help for Homeowners housing plan. Fewer than 2,000 families nationwide have been helped by the Federal Housing Administration since that Band-Aid was enacted in October.

And there are already obvious holes in the Obama plan. For example, people who had good loans through companies other than Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac and who have yet to fall into arrears appear to be unrepresented in the plan. True, those people took their chances that their investment wasn’t going to become their personal killing field, but if the predatory banking industry is being bailed out for its errors, and ignorant people who made bad, unrealistic decisions based on what they were told by real estate agents and mortgage salespeople are being bailed out, why are the people who made practical decisions based on historic market data being told they’re the ones who’ll lose their life savings?

Bottom line for us is this: Maybe Obama’s plan will come through after a month of partisan wrangling in Washington, D.C., and give Northern Nevadans a lot of aid. But some homeowners in Northern Nevada need to save themselves now.