The recent $26 billion mortgage settlement announced by the government has received coverage throughout the news media. Twenty six billion dollars is an eye-popping number. But it is important that discerning readers look beyond the number and the headlines to determine what is really going on here and separate fact from rhetoric and political posturing.

First of all, there is no question that the settlement — an agreement between the Justice Department, the Attorneys General from 49 states, and the five biggest mortgage servicing banks in the country (Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and Ally Financial) — is a monumental triumph to the process of a complex negotiation. One might call this an especially impressive achievement given that in today's highly charged political atmosphere the states are almost evenly divided between the Republicans and the Democrats.

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