I was trying to explain the political climate to a friend who was telling me all the wonderful legislation passed by the administration, and how no one gives the Dems credit. "Look," I said. "It's as if you're in the middle of Hurricane Katrina, and you're just trying to stay afloat, right? And some guy comes along and offers you an umbrella, a really nice umbrella. And he keeps saying, "Isn't this a great umbrella? It's really good quality, don't you think? Wasn't that nice of me to get it for you?"
"And you're drowning. You're looking at this guy and you're wondering why he didn't bring a boat. That's what it's like. Yeah, it's a nice umbrella -- but it's not what I need right now."
A majority of Americans now say they are worried about making their mortgage or rent payments, underscoring the extent of economic anxiety in the country heading into midterm elections.
A new Washington Post poll shows that concerns about housing payments have spiked since 2008 despite some improvements in the overall economy. In all, 53 percent said they are "very concerned" or "somewhat concerned" about having the money to make their monthly payment. Worries are the most intense among those with lower incomes and among African Americans.
The poll results highlight the political challenge facing the Obama administration: Despite committing hundreds of billions of dollars to bail out troubled financial firms, create jobs and keep distressed borrowers in their homes, it has not been able to make many people feel better about their personal situations or even relieve fears about the cost of a need as basic as shelter.
The recent foreclosure mess provides another example of this gap between the policy decisions in Washington and the sentiment of ordinary Americans. The poll reveals that just over half of the country thinks the administration should impose a national moratorium on foreclosures to sort out whether banks are improperly seizing the homes of struggling borrowers. But the White House rejected that idea, saying it would gravely wound the fragile housing market.
White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage said the administration has deployed every possible resource at its disposal to "pull our economy back from the brink."
"From day one the administration has done what was necessary," she said, "including taking a series of steps to stabilize the housing market and putting forth programs to help keep more Americans in their homes, target aid to the hardest-hit states, and help unemployed and underwater homeowners."
Despite such efforts, there's now even more unease about making next month's rent or mortgage payment than there was two years ago. Back then, 37 percent of respondents said they were somewhat or very concerned about their monthly housing costs.
Actually, the administration's HAMP program is pretty darned awful, a "compromise" to avoid mortgage cramdowns in bankruptcy court. It bled homeowners dry, and they lost their homes anyway.
The real problem is, a large percentage of the people who are drowning in this mess don't trust the Democrats or the administration to bring a boat.