I must admit to rarely having been more confused: It now appears that those homeowners currently groaning under the ravages of subprime loans stand a good chance of receiving federal assistance. Is that assistance justified?

The forms of assistance being proposed apparently would include strict enforcement of "predatory lending" laws and a push for a change to the tax code to allow the Federal Housing Administration to help suffering mortgage holders rework their loans. As one who usually prefers to let market forces cure ills such as those that have hit housing, I must confess to believing that the forces that are hammering housing have become so severe that a dose of medicine is probably needed.

With those same subprime difficulties spreading daily and worldwide, such mortgage lenders as industry leaders Countrywide (NYSE:CFC) and Washington Mutual (NYSE:WM) have been rocked. The same can be said of such homebuilding companies as Centex (NYSE:CTX) D.R. Horton (NYSE:DHI), Ryland (NYSE:RYL), and Beazer (NYSE:BZH). More importantly, millions of subprime mortgage holders face hikes in their house payments and possible foreclosure, and the broader economy is being dogged by an expanding credit crunch.

But bringing the issue back to a personal level, I have a confession to make: Despite having bought more homes in my day than I care to recall, and with my graduate degree in economics and finance notwithstanding, I speak very, very little "mortgagese." As many times as I've gone to closings where I was to receive the keys to a new hacienda, I've never fully understood what I was signing.

Oh sure, I'm fully aware of the difference between fixed and variable mortgages. And I certainly know what prime and subprime mean. But the page after page of documents that I've signed at each of those closings could have contained all manner of clauses that might have put me in the soup.

On that basis alone, I'm inclined to deviate from my typical laissez-faire approach to things economic, and say something like, "Bring on the fixes." But I'll also remind my Foolish friends that, medicine or not, the world of housing and mortgages is different than what it recently had become. Therefore, let what surely will be slow-acting elixirs take hold before putting your bucks into the builders.

To build on related Foolishness:

Washington Mutual is an Income Investor recommendation. Take your free 30-day trial and see the entire Income Investor scorecard.

Fool contributor David Lee Smith has owned too many houses in his day, but doesn't have a share of any of the companies mentioned. He welcomes your emails. The Motley Fool has built a strict disclosure policy.