Economics reporters Edmund Andrews and Vikas Bajaj teamed up for Thursday's off-lead story on the Bush administration's agreement with the mortgage industry to freeze interest rates forsome homeowners who bought houses with subprime loans.
The story's tone is set in the subhead- the plan doesn't go far enough in bailing out homeowners: "Lenders Agree To Freeze Rates On Some Loans - Subprime Relief Plan - Democrats Say Proposal by the White House Is Not Enough."
"The Bush administration reached an agreement with the mortgage industry on Wednesday on a plan to freeze interest rates for up to five years for a portion of the two million homeowners who bought houses in the last few years with subprime loans.
"The plan, hammered out after weeks of talks among Treasury Department officials, mortgage lenders and Wall Street firms, would allow distressed borrowers who are current on their payments to keep their low introductory rates and escape an increase of 30 percent or more in their monthly payments when the rates expire.
"Democratic lawmakers and presidential contenders quickly criticized the plan as being too timid and promoted more ambitious proposals of their own.
"The agreement, to be formally announced Thursday by President Bush, is expected to contain numerous limitations that would exclude many - if not most - subprime borrowers, according to industry executives who have seen it. It would exclude those who are delinquent on their payments - about 22 percent of all subprime borrowers, according to First American LoanPerformance, an industry research firm."
The Times emphasized the partisan, pro-Democrat angle, getting comments from the Hillary Clinton camp that the Bush plan is insufficient as well as relaying John Edwards' and Barack Obama's own plans for bailout, both more radical than the agreement Bush announced yesterday. No conservative groups or individuals were quoted by the Times in opposition to the plan.
By contrast, the Washington Post engaged the matter on ideological grounds, laying out the conservative argument high up in its story, and got comments from two conservative groups, one non-committal and another opposed. From the Post's front-page article Thursday:
"On Capitol Hill yesterday, some Republican lawmakers and their aides expressed concern that the plan would anger homeowners and others who stayed out of the subprime mortgage mess.
"Darren McKinney, 48, a renter in the District, said he has been waiting for housing prices to fall so he can buy a condo without resorting to a dubious loan. He turned down an opportunity to buy his 600-square-foot apartment for $310,000 in late 2004 because he thought it was 'absurdly overpriced.'
"Now the government is rewarding people who made irresponsible decisions and bought homes beyond their means, he said."
Such discouraging words were absent from the Times' coverage, whichembraced the issue as a political game- one played on the Democrats' side of the field.