As the Democrat-led housing rescue effort winds its way through Congress, it has won praise from an unlikely advocate: former Bush economic adviser Lawrence B. Lindsey. In an article posted on the website of the conservative American Enterprise Institute, where he is now a visiting scholar, Lindsey called the housing rescue plan championed by Rep. Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat, "the best thought-out bill in Washington" and defended it from opponents.
But politics being what it is, opponents of the Frank bill have cried "bailout." His plan is estimated to cost $1.7 billion, which in Washington is a rounding error as "bailouts" go. Consider for example the Senate's overwhelming support for a $25 billion bailout for homebuilders or the fact that a majority of House Republicans joined with Democrats to override President Bush's veto of the most pork-laden farm bill in history, as did all but 14 Republican senators. That legislation contained such high national priorities as $170 million for accelerated depreciation of race horses, the pro rata equivalent of stopping 50,000 foreclosures under the Frank plan. Frank's bill is narrowly targeted to avoid the political and moral problems involved in bailing out the undeserving. It is hardly a bailout. But that is also what makes it far from a panacea for the housing problem.