Julián Castro pushes back against liberal critics

Julián Castro pushes back against liberal critics
© Getty Images
Julián Castro is pushing back against the liberal critics accusing him of selling out to Wall Street.
 
The head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has come under fire recently from left-leaning groups critical that the agency is selling troubled mortgages to hedge funds and other Wall Street interests, a move the critics fear will create another foreclosure crisis.
 
ADVERTISEMENT
But Castro, who is widely considered a vice presidential prospect for the Democratic ticket this year, says those concerns have been blown out of proportion. 
 
In an interview with New Yorker Editor-in-Chief David Remnick, Castro acknowledged that private banks have been snapping up the mortgages through HUD's Distressed Asset Stabilization Program (DASP).
 
But he rejected the notion that the initiative is a gift for banks or a threat to the housing market, arguing instead that the sales are stabilizing the market and preventing foreclosures.
 
"It's true that a lot of folks that got these, purchased these notes, are private sector actors, banks and so forth," Castro told WNYC Studios’ “The New Yorker Radio Hour.” "But the entire idea of the program, and what the program is aiming at, is to actually keep people in their home."
 
Castro also took at shot at his liberal critics, comparing them to Tea Party purists who focus on "sloganeering" at the expense of "being thoughtful about policy and actually constructing something that works."
 
"Just shouting ‘Wall Street,’ sloganeering in a way, does not go to the merits of the program and how it's working and how we can actually improve it," he said.
 
The explanation likely won't appease critics, who are circulating an online petition that accuses Castro of reneging on earlier promises to use the DASP program to sell troubled mortgage loans to nonprofit community groups, not Wall Street banks.
 
Instead, the groups say the program has been "a giveaway" to the banks, with 98 percent of the program's mortgages going to Wall Street last year. 
 
"These homes are often sold at steep discounts, averaging 45% off for some of the biggest banks on Wall Street," reads the petition, which was sponsored by nine liberal advocacy groups, including Democracy for America, the Daily Kos, Rootstrikers and Working Families. 
 
"Sign the petition to tell Secretary Castro to stop selling our neighborhoods to Wall Street!"
 
Castro, while quick to label himself a progressive, warned that liberals risk falling into the same ideological-purity trap that's left conservatives grappling with a presidential race where the top two contenders — Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpThis week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Impeachment week: Trump probe hits crucial point Judd Gregg: The big, big and bigger problem MORE and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTrump has officially appointed one in four circuit court judges On The Money: Retirement savings bill blocked in Senate after fight over amendments | Stopgap bill may set up December spending fight | Hardwood industry pleads for relief from Trump trade war Retirement bill blocked in Senate amid fight over amendments MORE — are loathed by large segments of voters, including many Republicans.
 
"I consider myself a pretty progressive person, and I think I have a track record that shows that. But I'm also not just going to do a policy because it's the liberal thing to do," Castro said. 
 
"I'm going to implement a policy because it's well thought out, and it makes sense, and it's going to help those homeowners, and it's actually going to work."
 
Castro, a 41-year-old Hispanic Texan, is a top contender to join Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham Clinton3 ways government can help clean up Twitter Intelligence Democrat: Stop using 'quid pro quo' to describe Trump allegations The Memo: Bloomberg's 2020 moves draw ire from Democrats MORE on the Democratic ticket this year. Clinton is on track to win the party's presidential nomination, and the former San Antonio mayor could add valuable diversity to her campaign.
 
Clinton, though, has also faced a barrage of attacks that she's too cozy with Wall Street. Those attacks have helped propel Bernie SandersBernie SandersJuan Williams: Honesty, homophobia and Mayor Pete Democrats on edge as Iowa points to chaotic race Democrats debate how to defeat Trump: fight or heal MORE and his populist message in the Democratic primary race and will surely be a consideration as Clinton weighs a vice presidential pick. 
 
Addressing the rumors this week, Castro took a humble approach.
 
He told Remnick, “I do expect to be back in Texas next year.”