In the state where the mortgage crisis has been perhaps the most painful element of economic distress, Mitt Romney today took a hit from Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., after commenting that the government should let the home foreclosure process "run its course and hit the bottom."
Reid, the Senate majority leader, said Romney’s approach illustrated one of the differences between Democrats and Republicans.
“Nevada has the highest foreclosure rate in America, and it has for almost three years,” Reid said. “And here’s what Mitt Romney said. He would just let them hit rock bottom. I don’t know what’s more graphic than that in how we have different views of what the world should be like than our Republican friends.”
Reid later said the former Massachusetts governor should apologize to "the thousands of Nevada families struggling to keep a roof over their heads."
"With the highest foreclosure rate in the nation, Nevadans can’t afford someone in the White House whose response to this crisis is ‘tough luck’,” Reid said in a statement put out by the state Democratic Party.
In Nevada, 9,622 properties were in foreclosure in September, a nation-worst rate of one for every 118 housing units, according to RealtyTrac, a foreclosure tracking service.
Romney made his comments during a meeting Monday with the editorial board of the Las Vegas Review-Journal in advance of tonight’s GOP presidential debate.
Asked what he would do specifically to address the mortgage crisis in Nevada and elsewhere, Romney said, “Don’t try and stop the foreclosure process, let it run its course and hit the bottom.”
“Allow investors to buy homes, put renters in them, fix the homes up and let it turn around and come back up," Romney said. "The Obama administration has slow-walked the foreclosure processes that have long existed and as a result we still have a foreclosure overhang."
Romney said offering tax credits to first-time home buyers, a practice actually that originated in the Bush administration, "was an ineffective idea."
"It was inadequate to turn around the housing market," he said comparing it to the "cash for clunkers" program that subsidized auto purchases for people who traded in older cars for more efficient ones.
The $8,000 credit for first-time buyers was "throwing government money at something that was not market-oriented," Romney said. "It did not staunch the decline in home values any more than it encouraged the auto industry to take off."
Romney said he would consider expanding efforts to help people rescue their homes through refinancing, "but I am not signing on until I find out who is going to pay and who is going to get bailed out. That’s not something to which we know the answers to yet."