Radio Address on the Economy
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Earlier this week, we learned that the number of Americans filing
their first claim for unemployment insurance rose to a nearly 30-year
high. This news reflects the pain that’s been rippling across our
entire economy. Jobs are being cut. Wages are being slashed. Credit is
tight and people can’t get loans. In cities and towns all across this
country, families enter a holiday season with unease and uncertainty.
To end this economic crisis, we must end the mortgage crisis where
it began. This all started when Americans took out mortgages they
couldn’t afford. Some were reckless, aware of the risks they were
accepting, but many were innocent, tricked by lenders out to make a
quick buck. With banks creating securities they could not value, and
regulators looking the other way, the problem began infecting the whole
economy, leading to the crisis we’re now facing.
One in ten families who owns a home is now in some form of distress,
the most ever recorded. This is deeply troubling. It not only shakes
the foundation of our economy, but the foundation of the American
Dream. There is nothing more fundamental than having a home to call
your own. It’s not just a place to live or raise your children or
return after a hard day’s work — it’s the cornerstone of a family’s
To stem the rising tide of foreclosures and strengthen our economy,
I’ve asked my economic team to develop a bold plan that will
dramatically increase the number of families who can stay in their
homes. But this plan will only work with a comprehensive, coordinated
federal effort to make it a reality. We need every part of our
government working together — from the Treasury Department to the
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the agency that protects the
money you’ve put in the bank. And few will be more essential to this
effort than the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
From providing shelter to those displaced by Katrina to giving help
to those facing the loss of a home to revitalizing our cities and
communities, HUD’s role has never been more important. Since its
founding, HUD has been dedicated to tearing down barriers in access to
affordable housing — in an effort to make America more equal and more
just. Too often, these efforts have had mixed results.
That is why we cannot keep doing things the old Washington way. We
cannot keep throwing money at the problem, hoping for a different
result. We need to approach the old challenge of affordable housing
with new energy, new ideas, and a new, efficient style of leadership.
We need to understand that the old ways of looking at our cities just
won’t do. That means promoting cities as the backbone of regional
growth by not only solving the problems in our cities, but seizing the
opportunities in our growing suburbs, exurbs, and metropolitan areas.
No one knows this better than the outstanding public servant I am
announcing today as our next Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
— Shaun Donovan.
As Commissioner of Housing Preservation and Development in New York
City, Shaun has led the effort to create the largest housing plan in
the nation, helping hundreds of thousands of our citizens buy or rent
their homes. Prior to joining Mayor Bloomberg’s administration, Shaun
worked both in business, where he was responsible for affordable
housing investments, and at one of our nation’s top universities, where
he researched and wrote about housing issues. This appointment
represents something of a homecoming for Shaun, who worked at HUD in
the Clinton administration, leading an effort to help make housing
affordable for nearly two million Americans. Trained as an architect,
Shaun understands housing down to how homes are designed, built, and
With experience that stretches from the public sector to the private
sector to academia, Shaun will bring to this important post fresh
thinking, unencumbered by old ideology and outdated ideas. He
understands that we need to move past the stale arguments that say
low-income Americans shouldn’t even try to own a home or that our
mortgage crisis is due solely to a few greedy lenders. He knows that we
can put the dream of owning a home within reach for more families, so
long as we’re making loans in the right way, and so long as those who
buy a home are prepared for the responsibilities of homeownership.
In the end, expanding access to affordable housing isn’t just about
caring for the least fortunate among us and strengthening our middle
class — it’s about ending our housing mess, climbing out of our
financial crisis, and putting our economy on the path to long-term
growth and prosperity. And that is what Shaun and I will work to do
together when I am President of the United States.