It has been interesting to watch the reaction to Obama's mortgage-holder bailout. Certainly the plan is expensive, likely largely ineffective, and has terrible long-term impacts on incentives. To my libertarian eyes the plan is awful, but no more awful, and actually less expensive (incredibly!) than other bailouts and legislation pouring out of Washington of late. Like everything else we are seeing, it is a hair-of-the-dog plan: fix government over-promotion of home ownership with more government promotion of home ownership; Fix the fact that individuals are over-leveraged by trying to keep them in their mortgages.
But this issue changes the political map to some extent. The usual rhetoric about milking one group to help another who are "on the outs by no fault of their own" is just stretched past credulity on this one. Sure, there are enough folks who were really tricked or scammed in their mortgages to fill up any length of a news segment with tearful anecdotes. But the 50% of the country that rents or the large percentage of homeowners that didn't chase around after zero-down house-flipping deals don't seem to be buying that their tax money is now flowing to innocent victims.
Postscript: I know there is a tendency to leap onto this "fraud" excuse to help assuage one's ego. Yeah, I wasn't stupid, I was tricked! Well, I am in some financial tough times, and I will declare it here publicly: It is all my fault. I got overly exuberant in expanding the business, and doubled down on my mistake by agreeing to a large financial commitment based on a bank's loan commitment letter, rather than an actual loan (a commitment letter that was pretty much worthless as the bank went into FDIC receivership). I have found, by the way, that my banks have been very reasonable about restructuring commitments as long as I come to the table with a plan showing how I intend to pay them back every cent that is theirs (yes, I said it, it is theirs -- it is their money) though just with altered terms and timing. The good news is that a ebbing tide reveals a lot of rocks, and the business has been vastly improved by the thorough review and restructuring we have put it through of late.