The Definition Of Success Depends On Whether Or Not You Work For The Treasury Department

President Obama said the program would help three to four million people modify their mortgages. But through September, 728,686 struggling homeowners have been kicked out of the program; just 640,300 remain, the Treasury Department reported on Monday.

That doesn’t strike me as a success. If the intention was to keep people in their homes, it doesn’t seem to be working very well.

“The most specific of TARP’s Main Street goals, “preserving homeownership,” has so far fallen woefully short, with TARP’s portion of the Administration’s mortgage modification program yielding only 207,000 (out of a total of 467,000) ongoing permanent modifications since TARP’s inception, a number that stands in stark contrast to the 5.5 million homes receiving foreclosure filings and more than 1.7 million homes that have been lost to foreclosure since January 2009.”

That little quote is from the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP).  He has some more to say though –

“SIGTARP, along with the other TARP oversight bodies (GAO and the Congressional Oversight Panel), has long argued that Treasury should adopt meaningful benchmarks and goals for HAMP – permanent modifications that offer secure, sustainable relief to the program’s intended beneficiaries.  Remarkably, Treasury has steadfastly rejected these recommendations, and now finds itself defending a program that is failing to meet TARP’s goal of “perserving homeownership”.  As a result, a program that began with much promise must be counted among those that risk generating public anger and mistrust.”

But it gets better – at a meeting with administration officials for bloggers – Well, read the following –

On HAMP, officials were surprisingly candid. The program has gotten a lot of bad press in terms of its Kafka-esque qualification process and its limited success in generating mortgage modifications under which families become able and willing to pay their debt. Officials pointed out that what may have been an agonizing process for individuals was a useful palliative for the system as a whole. Even if most HAMP applicants ultimately default, the program prevented an outbreak of foreclosures exactly when the system could have handled it least. There were murmurs among the bloggers of “extend and pretend”, but I don’t think that’s quite right. This was extend-and-don’t-even-bother-to-pretend. The program was successful in the sense that it kept the patient alive until it had begun to heal. And the patient of this metaphor was not a struggling homeowner, but the financial system, a.k.a. the banks. Policymakers openly judged HAMP to be a qualified success because it helped banks muddle through what might have been a fatal shock. I believe these policymakers conflate, in full sincerity, incumbent financial institutions with “the system”, “the economy”, and “ordinary Americans”. Treasury officials are not cruel people. I’m sure they would have preferred if the program had worked out better for homeowners as well. But they have larger concerns, and from their perspective, HAMP has helped to address those.

You see, HAMP is designed to help the banks not the homeowners. It enabled the banks to manage their foreclosures during a period in which it would have been difficult to keep up the pace.

So, success is defined as making sure the banks are successful.

Gives you a warm feeling doesn’t it?

James Pilant