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House Run: What do Republican Presidential Candidates Say on the Foreclosure Crisis?

Not much

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President Barack Obama's plans to help homeowners have come up short time and again. ProPublica recently looked at Obama's latest proposals, most of which are unlikely to make a major dent in the crisis.

So how about the Republican presidential candidates: What do they say should be done about the foreclosure crisis?

They don't say much. As newspapers in hard-hit states like Florida, Nevada, California and Ohio have been quick to point out, none of the candidates has made the foreclosure crisis a policy priority.

Mostly the candidates have argued that the housing market needs to heal on its own, without government interference. Rick Santorum and Congressman Ron Paul have suggested tax breaks for some homeowners.

Here's an in-depth guide to how Santorum, Mitt Romney, Paul and Newt Gingrich say they would approach the issue as president, as well as an evaluation of their claims.

Rick Santorum: "Let capitalism work," but let homeowners write off home losses on their taxes.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum has proposed allowing people who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth to sell their houses and deduct their losses from their taxes.

The details of Santorum's plan aren't clear, and the campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

One tax-law expert, James Maule of Villanova University School of Law, said a tax write-off "would not do much for the majority of people who are in financial trouble."

Right now taxpayers who sell their primary residences at a loss can't deduct that loss from their taxes. Changing the tax law wouldn't do much good, Maule said, because people who are struggling with their mortgages often have little or no income, so giving them a tax deduction actually wouldn't help.

Other than that, Santorum says we just need to "let capitalism work," as he put it in a Republican debate in Tampa, Fla., on Jan. 23. "Allow these banks to realize their losses. And create an opportunity for folks who have houses to realize their losses and at least help them out."

Santorum also has said his plan would help the housing market "find its bottom."

"This is something I think is important temporarily to put in place to allow people the freedom to be able to go out and get out from underneath these houses that they're holding onto and at least get some relief from the federal government for doing so," he said at the Jan. 23 debate.

But according to some experts housing prices might be close to hitting bottom already--and thus on their way to rebounding.

It's also worth noting that a 2007 law provides a tax exemption for homeowners who negotiate debt relief on their mortgages, including through short sales. It's unclear whether this law and Santorum's plan might overlap.

Earlier in Nevada--one of the states where the foreclosure crisis has been most severe--Santorum emphasized "free-market solutions" and cautioned citizens against looking to the government for help. According to CNN, Santorum compared the housing crisis to health care and suggested that, given the opportunity, liberals in government would implement a housing solution like "Obamacare."

When Santorum and others call for private-sector solutions, they're largely sidestepping a reality: The mortgage market already relies deeply on government support.

Government-owned Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac own or guarantee roughly half of all mortgages in the United States. And while both the Obama administration and Republicans want to scale back government involvement, it's actually been growing. Fannie and Freddie now guarantee three out of every four new mortgages. Factor in the Federal Housing Administration mortgages guaranteed by Ginnie Mae, and the percentage of mortgages backed by the government is even higher.