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January 31, 2015

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Jon Ralston:

Housing may be pyramid scheme that gets Heck

Hook top Democratic strategists to a polygraph and ask them if they think Speaker John Oceguera will defeat GOP Rep. Joe Heck and — if they tell the truth — they would say no.

As much as they want to take back Congressional District 3, they have long feared that the tireless, deft Heck would defeat Oceguera, who some Democrats fear has too much legislative baggage to survive. Democrats felt some hope after Heck was caught on camera last year calling Social Security a “pyramid scheme,” but not enough to declare Oceguera would win.

But now, I think, whatever Oceguera’s flaws might be, the Democrats probably believe another issue in his district just might be insurmountable for the incumbent; the issue that defines Nevada’s still-sluggish economy: the housing crisis.

Heck is acutely aware of this — I have seen it in his appearances on “Face to Face” and elsewhere. He knows people are angry at losing, or being bankrupted by, the biggest purchase of their lives. He is doing outreach in the district, dispatching staffers to help people.

But as the blowback to the recent “global” banking settlement shows, one which Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto acknowledges affects only a sliver of those in distress, the anger continues to boil. This week you saw Heck torn between his desire to be part of what looked at one time like a guaranteed winning team — Team Mitt Romney, that is — and his even greater desire for re-election.

Heck’s decision at a town hall to make a clear break from Romney on the foreclosure crisis, after trying to defend him last year, is a sign that it could be his kryptonite and Oceguera’s spinach.

This goes back to October, when Romney told the Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial board (oh, the sweet irony!): “ “Don’t try and stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom, allow investors to buy homes, put renters in them, fix the homes up and let it turn around and come back up.”

As Sun columnist J. Patrick Coolican pointed out, Romney might be right on the economics. But, as often happens with the man who is concerned with corporate people and not the very poor ones, what comes out of his mouth often does not help his case, no matter how good it is.

In a follow-up piece, a Heck aide told the Review-Journal the congressman “thinks the housing market ‘does need to reach bottom’….(but supports) ‘a soft landing rather than a hard crash’ by having the government continue to offer refinancing help.”

Even then, you could see Heck, who co-chairs Romney’s campaign in Nevada, realized Romney’s words could be damaging, so he agreed but then tried to, ahem, soften the blow.

Then, on Tuesday at a town hall, Heck, surely by now realizing what being aligned with Romney on these comments could mean, distanced himself completely, as I detailed on my blog.

Said Heck: “Mitt Romney and I don’t agree on every issue and certainly housing is one of them. When you look at what is going on here in Southern Nevada, you can’t say you’ve got to let the housing market hit bottom. We have been bouncing along the bottom for years. And the fact is we have to do everything possible to: 1) keep people in their homes and 2) get people who are out of their homes back into their homes.”

You notice that last year, he said nothing about disagreeing with Romney. And see how different his construction is there. His spokesman offered that this was a “nonstory,” that Heck still supports a “soft landing.”

But these are just words. And they are not the words that many voters in his district want to hear, as Cortez Masto also knows.

People are hurting and impatient. Their party affiliation is irrelevant — they just want the government to help them refinance, reduce their principal, fix their problems.

For a conservative such as Heck, this is dancing on the head of a pin. And as dexterous as he is, he can’t pull it off.

It’s like the old saw about what a team can do to stop a superstar – Heck can’t stop the damage; he can only hope to contain it.

I remember toward the end of the 2010 cycle watching then-Rep. Dina Titus do everything she could to erect sandbags against what was obviously going to be an onrushing GOP tide on Election Day. She was relentless, skillful and resourceful. And she still lost, despite Herculean efforts.

It’s only February. But if Heck doesn’t find a way to deal with this — if there is a way — the pyramid may not collapse on him, but the house just might.

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  1. "Said Heck: 'Mitt Romney and I don't agree on every issue and certainly housing is one of them. When you look at what is going on here in Southern Nevada, you can't say you've got to let the housing market hit bottom. We have been bouncing along the bottom for years. And the fact is we have to do everything possible to: 1) keep people in their homes and 2) get people who are out of their homes back into their homes.'"

    What Heck says and what he does are two different things. His words do not match his actions.

    The simple fact of this matter, Jon, is that Heck is doing what all Tea/Republican Party politicians always find themselves forced to do against their will: DAMAGE CONTROL. Because they have no message other than to be in power, amass wealth and totally and completely screw over every single one of their constituents. Heck is no different.

    When Heck got the nod on November 2, 2010 (I didn't vote for him, voted for Ms. Titus), there were two things he did IMMEDIATELY.

    The first was to say he was going to save money in Washington DC by sleeping on a couch in his new office. Or in the closet. Living in a van down by the river. Something like that. He tried to convey that he was a regular guy or something, but it fell way short.

    The second thing he did was he dismantled the entire network of help phone lines and other things put in place by Ms. Titus who were actually trying to help underwater homeowners, those who were having a hard time with mortgage payments, and/or those who were being foreclosed upon, due to the horrible economic meltdown reality of 2007/2008. POOF! Gone. He could care less. Not his problem.

    Now, he's worried about his constituents?

    I say no. He's worried about his useless carcass still having a job where he does nothing but serve Speaker Boehner and the entire Tea/Republican Party, while completely trampling all over Southern Nevada.

    I used to be in his district, but the moment he discovered Eastern Las Vegas was no longer going to be under his purview, he abandoned us.

    To this day, he has never ever conducted a town hall meeting anywhere even close.

    And since November 2011, there has been no communication from him at all. Though technically still in his jurisdiction, we are officially of no consequence anymore.

    Eastern Las Vegas is in limbo. An asteroid could wipe out this entire stretch and he could care less. Well, except to run to a microphone/camera, but only to get the CD3 sympathy vote in November 2012.

    I'm so glad I am in the new CD1 and away from that hypocrite. I just hope CD3 wakes up and dumps him faster than Paris Hilton booh yah'ed out of the Wynn. Then, he can scream that "Social Security is a Ponzi scheme" and other Tea Party nonsensical stuff to his heart's content, and no one is obliged to listen to his B.S. anymore.

  2. Jon:
    I suspect that, when Romney looked like a near lock for the White House, Heck actually welcomed his remarks. What great political cover when your soon-to-be President says you should just sit on your hands and let the "free market" run it's course. Now that the Mittster's campaign is floundering and his purported business expertise has come under fire from all quarters, Heck finds himself having to backtrack and respectfully disagree with his icon on the housing issue. Citizen Heck has wasted his time in our seat by continually dithering about social issues and ignoring the pressing need for jobs and housing relief in CD3. As our representative, Dina Titus was an activist and fully engaged towards the interests of her constituents. Heck has been AWOL since day one. A gerbil could have acted more concerned and done a better job. Heck won't be missed.

  3. moogie says it all. Nobody who is a Grover Norquist drone, or associated with him in any way will get my vote in November. Congratulations to Colin for escaping from District 3. I am stuck, and can only hope that Mr. Oceguera becomes more of a candidate, goes after Heck, or gets out of the way.

  4. Heck is forced to pretend that he thinks government assistance will be able to solve or greatly ameliorate the housing crisis. It won't, but the truth won't help his election chances. Romney is cold blooded, and is willing to sacrifice the needs of lower income Americans to pursue his vision for business and the affluent Middle Class. If Romney wins the election, taking Heck along for the ride, many Las Vegans will be left in the dust.

  5. "Their houses" is only true if they have 100% equity. If they have more than 50% equity, they are majority co-owners. If less than 50%, they are minority co-owners. If little or none, they are essentially renters, but stuck with all of the ownership liabilities while living in the lender's house. There is nothing wrong with people being tenants until they have accunmulated sufficient savings to become an owner with sigificant equity. After that, they should work to become outright owners as soon as is possible. We need to become a society based on wealth, not debt. The current housing and economic mess may have one good outcome if it causes people to shun debt.

  6. Erick Stefik - When you state that "Romney is cold blooded, and is willing to sacrifice the needs of lower income Americans to pursue his vision for business and the affluent Middle Class," you forget many things. The things people most need are opportunity, prosperity, happiness, and freedom. Big government decrease all of those, and the Democratic party and statist Republicans are behind big government. It has been tried, and has been a failure anywhere and anytime it has been tried.

    Poverty is almost always a self-inflicted condition, except for those very few born with bserious birth defects. Most others need a mirror to see the source of their curent condition. Poverty is also largely temporary, as most do find a mirror, and do what is needed to no longer be poor. Studying hard, working hard, working smart, saving, avoiding debt, and avoiding drugs and such are the keys to success. let's hope we get a new president focused on fostering success, rather than pandering to those who are failing.

  7. Mr. Masek,
    I stand by my original statement, Romney's own words define his positions on housing, the very poor and the auto bailouts. Your theory that poverty is self imposed and temporary not withstanding, there are many who would disagree, including seniors and many others who have been downsized in their employment in middle age, and so on. Joe Heck truly has, in the quaint phrase, a tiger by the tail, but much of his protesting is purely cosmetic. We have heard the pitch before, that giving more tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans will alleviate the economic problems many face, and the truth clearly suggests otherwise.

  8. The scum tbaggers are all the same, they flip-flop and pander to their gullible constituents on every issue when their jobs are on the line.

    And speaking of jobs, they can't even legislate a jobs program that would help the working class. But they can always find a way to write legislation that helps their rich benefactors.

    Flip-flopping hypocrites is all their Scum is.

  9. You know no matter what, whoever gets into office, regardless of laws and bailouts, you know one thing. The rich get richer. The bailouts were about helping the rich. I don't believe Romeny would be any different than Obama. See article.

  10. Heck's HYPOCRISY is just one of many issues he will have to do damage control on - now that we have him fully on record commenting and voting!

    It's too early on in the 2012 campaign, so those of us that suffered under Repbulican Jon Porter (now making a fortune in D.C. as a lobbyist), and have suffered under this radical T.E.A. Party Republican Freshman Dr. Joe Heck - well let's just say we'll be saving the best facts, figures and statistics, and lots of questions, for later in the campaign!

    Frankly, I'm looking forward to watching Heck do emergency political triage on himself when the facts get put out, repeatedly, exposing his hypocrisy!