The White House is today touting progress on its foreclosure prevention plan. The administration says mortgage servicing firmsā€”the largest of which are owned by the big banksā€”have offered approximately 55,000 ā€œtrial modificationsā€ to struggling borrowers since early March, and have sent letters urging another 300,000 borrowers to apply. These are good numbers, relative to the disastrously low bar set by previous initiatives: The Hope for Homeowners program created by Congressional Democrats last year had modified exactly one loan as of March.

But weā€™ve got a long, long way to go before hitting a more meaningful mark on fixing these bad loans. In April, for the second month in a row, at least 340,000 households got foreclosure noticesā€”thatā€™s one in every 374 housing units. Itā€™s also a 32 percent increase over April of last year. In short, the problem is still growing exponentiallyā€”and at a considerably faster clip than the modification offers are rolling out.

Further, itā€™s important to note that, contrary to some media reports today, the White Houseā€™s 55,000 stat counts *offers made*, not completed loan modifications. As Iā€™ve reported, the high-volume, low-cost business models upon which the banksā€™ servicing divisions are built leave them with neither the personnel nor the systems necessary to successfully walk a borrower from offer to modification. The White House notes some progress on this front, as well, pointing out that Chaseā€”one of the big three servicers, which control half of the marketā€”has added 1,000 people to work on loss mitigation. Itā€™s unclear whether these new hires are loan modification specialistsā€”a rare and expensive skillā€”or people to answer the phones.

Now, to be sure, this is all an awful lot of boring detail. And Iā€™m increasingly of the belief thatā€™s the point, politically. We all drowned in the technical details of weapons of mass destruction and ā€œembeddedā€ reporting on the war, missing the larger, more straightforward point: The grounds for going to war were shaky at best. Similarly, thereā€™s a larger, simpler point with foreclosure: Washington has steadfastly refused any policy that forces the banks and their servicing firms to fix the problem they created.

As long as weā€™re counting the number of letters Wells Fargo mailed in April, weā€™re not counting the number of homes it mindlessly, needlessly foreclosed upon. And weā€™re not paying attention to the fact that Congress and the White House rolled over as industry lobbyists killed the single proposal that would have forced them to do better businessā€”bankruptcy reformā€”rather than handing them billions more tax dollars to pursue the same, failed business model. Itā€™s high time we all saw this as a political, rather than economic conversation.

ā€”KAI WRIGHT