The Wall Street Journal - Homeland Insecurity
By Barack Obama
America is in a defining moment. This is the wealthiest nation in history. Yet many Americans feel that the dream so many generations fought for is slowly slipping away.
I've spoken with folks across this country who have worked all their lives to put their children through college, but now can't afford the rising tuition. I've spoken with many others who've done everything right, but fell into bankruptcy once they became sick, because they couldn't afford their skyrocketing medical bills. And since working Americans have to pay these rising costs with incomes that remain stagnant, many are falling deep into debt, unable to set anything aside for savings.
So at a time when many Americans have no margin for error, it's no surprise that the downturn in the housing market has done enormous harm. In the coming years, over two million Americans could face foreclosure.
The larger risk, however, is that what is happening in housing could spill over elsewhere. A number of firms borrowed huge sums to make investments tied to the housing market. They are now suffering big losses that could trigger a slowdown of the entire economy. We're already seeing some troubling signs. Consumer confidence is the lowest it's been in years. Pension funds are losing money, threatening retirement security. And banks are also losing money, resulting in a credit crunch. That means businesses have less money to invest and people can't get loans, which could lead to significant job losses in the months ahead.
This is a moment of challenge. But it's also a moment of opportunity which we must seize, to make sure our economic future is secure. That starts with addressing the source of our economic woes -- the crisis in the housing market. For most Americans, a home is not just a place to live; it's their most valuable possession -- so preventing a larger crisis in the housing market means providing greater economic security for middle-class families.